Canada’s best city for business?

What is Canada’s best city for setting up shop? Oil-rich Calgary? Establishment Toronto?

According to Canadian Business magazine’s fifth annual ranking, the answer is neither. Instead this year’s winner may come as a surprise to some: Quebec City.

While for many, Quebec City means a quaint resort-like town with European cachet and hilly, narrow streets or for others a haughty government town, corporate Canada may be looking at the provincial capital with fresh eyes.

Quebec City “experienced the biggest growth in corporate building permits and second-highest decline in unemployment rate. Combine that with Quebec’s historically low operating and living costs and crime rates, and it puts the province’s capital city on top,” reported Canadian Business senior writer Andy Holloway.

“A surprise to many, perhaps, but, simply put, there’s more opportunity for start-up in the distinct society’s self-proclaimed capitale nationale than in the high-cost and labour-short city of Calgary,” said the report. Quebec City is the eighth-safest city in Canada, the 11th least expensive place to live and 15th least epensive place to operate a business.

Both Toronto and Calgary, on the other hand, have become victims of urban sprawl, tough corporate climates, and poor downtown vacancy rates (top of the line office space in downtown Calgary, for example, is at 0.6 per cent vacant, making it nearly impossible for a company to move into the city core immediately).

Calgary ranked 34th in the report, down from 18th last year. While it remains the country’s most thriving economy, the costs of operating a business and the short supply of office space may not make it the best choice for a business thinking of making a move.

Toronto, while arguably Canada’s most prominent city, has experienced stagnated commercial development in the core, with more companies moving to cheaper land and better access to the airport, while still drawing on the city’s labour pool and cultural amenities. Toronto ranked No.37, up from dead last in last year’s ranking.

The best Canadian cities for business: The top twenty
1. Quebec City
2. Charlottetown
3. Saguenay, Quebec
4. Laval, Quebec
5. St. John’s, Newfoundland
6. Saint John, New Brunswick
7. Edmonton
8. Markham, Ontario
9. Halifax
10. Sherbrooke, Quebec
11. Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario
12. Ottawa
13. Winnipeg
14. Vaughan, Ontario
15. Burlington, Ontario
16. Hamilton, Ontario
17. Mississauga, Ontario
18. Moncton, New Brunswick
19. Richmond, British Columbia
20. Cape Breton

The cities selected for the survey include the country’s 25 largest cities, plus 15 smaller cities (for regional representation). Cities are ranked on five factors reflecting socio-economic health: the variable operating costs of doing business, the cost of living, non-residential permits, and unemployment and crime rates. The final ranking weights each factor based on a Canadian Business online survey of nearly 900 readers. For more information or to see the complete list, visit