Canada's quality of life ranks in middle of 'peer' countries: report

Canada’s quality of life ranks just below the middle of a group of 16 similar countries, according to a new report from the Conference Board of Canada.

But we score an A for life satisfaction, Conference Board says

A man wind surfs on the waters off Jericho Beach in Vancouver. The Conference Board of Canada report gave Canada an overall A grade for our level of life satisfaction. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Canada's quality of life ranks just below the middle of a group of 16 similar countries, according to a new report from the Conference Board of Canada.

The report, How Canada Performs, ranks the country using 10 indicators that range from income inequality and the gender wage gap to the homicide and burglary rates.

Canada comes 10th out of 16 countries.

"Canada is a 'B' performer on the overall society report card," the report said. "Not a poor performance per se, but there is definitely room for improvement."

The report expands the ranking by comparing each of the 10 provinces to other provinces and to the 16 countries.

When compared to other countries and the provinces, Canada ranks 13th out of 26. New Brunswick ranks the highest of any Canadian province in 10th place.  

The next two highest provinces are Quebec, ranked 11th, and B.C., ranked 12th. Newfoundland and Labrador ranked the lowest of any province at 23rd position, just above France at 24th, Japan at 25th and the United States at 26th.

The overall country and province ranking from the April 2017, Conference Board of Canada report: How Canada Performs. (Conference Board of Canada/CBC)

The report notes that the U.K.'s decision to leave the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president highlight the social unrest in those countries, which is being fuelled by growing inequality. 

"Both the U.K. and the U.S. have much higher income inequality than Canada and appear to have greater social polarization; however, Canada cannot afford to be complacent," the report says. 

Canada's income inequality increased significantly from the late 1980s until the early 2000s, but since then it has been trending lower, the report says. That has helped Canada avoid the "rising inequality that has accompanied increasing globalization and technological advances." 

While Canada was given a B grade for income equality, that result, the report says, has been fuelled by high wages in the natural resources sector and a long-running real estate boom — economic realities that could change. 

The report gives Canada a B grade on income inequality, despite only the U.K., Australia and the U.S. ranking lower. (Conference Board of Canada/CBC)

Canada also scored a B grade on homicides, but declining burglaries saw Canada given an A grade in that area, putting the country in fourth place out of 26. 

Canada, however, did not perform well in a number of areas including the poverty rate, where it got a C.

The report notes that the poverty rate for elderly people continues to rise and, when it comes to child poverty, only the U.S. has a higher rate than Canada. 

Canada was also given a C grade on the gender wage gap. Canada finished 13th among the 16 countries in the comparison. 

"The wage gap between the weekly median earnings of men and women in Canada is 18 per cent," the report said. 

The gender wage gap remains high, with Newfoundland and Labrador ranking worst due to the 30 per cent difference in pay between men and women. (Conference Board of Canada/CBC)

The report says there are a few things that can be done to target the weaknesses, including:

  • Reducing the poverty rate by revisiting they way Canadians are taxed and income is redistributed, including considering solutions that would guarantee people a basic livable income. 
  • Improving education outcomes with a specific focus on boosting the quality of education for disadvantaged young children as well as mid-career skills retraining and language training for immigrants. 
  • Tackling child poverty rates. 
  • Closing the wage gaps between rich and poor, men and women and immigrants and other Canadians. 

Provincial differences

Newfoundland and Labrador is ranked the lowest of all the provinces on the list and was given a D-minus for its gender wage gap, the biggest in Canada at 30 per cent. Saskatchewan. Alberta. and B.C didn't fare much better, with each scoring a D in the same category. 

Newfoundland and Labrador also scored a D on youth employment, a grade it shared with Nova Scotia. Only Saskatchewan scored an A in this area, with P.E.I. and New Brunswick scoring a C and the rest of the provinces scoring Bs.

Alberta had the lowest poverty rate of all the provinces and was given an A, closely followed by Saskatchewan. which got a B while the rest of the provinces all scored C. 

When it comes to life satisfaction all provinces scored high, in fact it was the only category where any provinces were given an A-plus. Those included Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I., New Brunswick and Saskatchewan. All the rest took home an A. 

While many consider Canada a rich country, its poverty rate, especially among children and the elderly, puts it behind most countries on the list. (Conference Board of Canada/CBC)