Seeking the best cities for work in B.C.

In early December, BC Business published its annual “Best Cities for work in B.C.” index.

Infill housing, Sapperton, New Westminster, 2017

The publishers and their research partner, Environics Analytics, deserve credit for collecting and posting data on 46 B.C. cities, from Squamish (ranked #1 for 2019) to Port Alberni (ranked last).

Unfortunately, I don’t know what they are trying to communicate. Is the District of North Vancouver (ranked #3) a good place to find a job, or a good place to live if you want to look for a job? What kind of job? How does high average income in a community affect the on-the-job experience of a teacher, a firefighter or an electrician who happens to work there? Or are we simply talking about the local opportunity to earn a higher income in our chosen profession? ($51,000+ is available to a Step 1 Category 4 schoolteacher in New Denver in the Kootenays, $48,000 for the same teacher in North Vancouver, so…) Why are municipalities that sit next to each other so far apart on the scale?

To keep it short, I’ll look at a simple pairing. Coquitlam is ranked #11 on the index, and New Westminster, across the freeway, is ranked #43. The unemployment rate in both places is 4.5 per cent, presumably because they both sit in a larger Statistics Canada zone. Average shelter spending is $21,236 in New Westminster and $23,917 in Coquitlam, giving the edge to New West under the contest rules. Average household income is higher in Coquitlam, vs. $107, 029 vs $88,727, but what does this mean? Average commute times for residents in both places are more than 30 minutes, indicating that many residents are earning their incomes in Vancouver or Surrey in any case.  Coquitlam households spend more on recreation than households in New West ($5,000 per year vs. $4,000), but what does this have to do with their status as places to work?

It’s possible that BC Business is appealing to ambitious readers who want to adopt — or mimic — an upwardly mobile lifestyle in the financial or real estate sector, and who want to live among people who are doing the same, but this is just a wobbly guess. If I wanted to meet a rich mentor so I could ride around on his yacht, I would not move to Port Alberni (#46 and last), but neither would I move to Prince Rupert (#6), which is (a fine and respectable place but) even more stormy and remote.

Austin Heights, Coquitlam, 2012

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