By Robert Frank
Laval has some significant strengths, but still has work to do to improve its appeal to newcomers, the Conference Board of Canada reported.
“Laval is a little bit below a middle-of-the-pack city,” economist Alan Arcand, who headed the independent think-tank’s ranking of 50 Canadian cities, told The Suburban. “It does well in some areas and less well in others.”
The study used 43 indicators from Canada’s 2011 census and other sources to measure how attractive those cities are to newcomers.
“It’s kind of a mixed bag,” the associate director of the Centre for Municipal Studies said in an interview. “Laval did well in housing and really well in society—which measures quality of life—compared to other cities. It fared poorly in education and environment.”
Polyglot population gets top marks
“Laval ranked second in Canada, after Montreal, as a bilingual and multilingual city,” Arcand said. “Another category where Laval did well is housing. It’s an affordable place to live, in terms of the proportion of income that is spent on mortgage and rent payments.”
“There’s also less income inequality than is found in other than in other Canadian cities,” he added. “Laval ranked 15th out of 50 cities in terms of the proportion of its population that’s low-income.”
“One area where Laval struggles is the proportion of the population in the 25-to-34-year-old age group,” Arcand contrasted. “Laval is at the bottom. Its population is older, making it less attractive to young, mobile prospective residents.”
“The median distance driving to work is pretty high in Laval,” he said. “It ranked 36th in Canada.”
“It also doesn’t do well on environment,” he added. “Laval ranked 45th overall in this category. It finished second-to-last in the number of air quality advisory days, ahead only of Montreal, which was dead last.”
“Laval ranked 40th in education,” Arcand continued. “It got a D in this category, in terms of educational attainment and access to higher education. The weakest category was its portion of the population with an advanced degree.”
Quebec’s third-largest city has only one French CEGEP and hosts a French university satellite campus. There are no English higher education institutions here at all.
“Laval placed 37th in Canada in term of the number of university professors and college instructors,” Arand said.
Although Laval has in recent years outpaced most other Quebec cities, it cannot entirely escape the sluggish provincial economy.
Arcand acknowledged that provincial economic performance played a role in the census results.
“Cities in the midst of Western Canada’s current commodity boom like Calgary, Edmonton, Regina and Saskatoon all got A grades for their economies,” Arcand noted.
In contrast, cities in Ontario’s rust belt tended to fare poorly.
“D-ranked cities tended to be concentrated in Southern Ontario cities which were hit really hard by the recession,” he continued. “They have experienced very slow recoveries there.”
The measure of a city’s appeal to a mobile population influences its attractiveness to businesses considering investing in Laval.
“One follows the other,” Arcand concluded. “For many firms, their main factor in production is human capital, so they are more willing to locate in area where there is a good supply of highly skilled people.”
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