More of the best places to live in Canada

Last week we brought you the first ten of the 20 best places to retire in Canada.

Canada, in our opinion and in the opinion of the United Nations is still the best place to be. In 2002, the UN listed Canada as one of the top five countries among the 173 it rates for quality of life. Canadians also expressed contentment: nine out of 10 said their country was one of the top three places in which to live, citing health care, the environment and the peaceful nature of their fellow citizens as key reasons. Canada is well known abroad for its beauty, its generosity and the inherent politeness of its citizens. If that’s why new immigrants want to come here, it’s also reason enough to stay here.  Here are ten more of the best spots to live.

Elliot Lake: Get out There
Talk about transmogrification. In a scenic northern town once dominated by uranium mining lies a thriving community of 14,000 totally reinvented to accommodate outdoor-loving retirees. On the Canadian Shield surrounded by boreal fort, Elliot Lake is home to 54 mammal species including moose, white-tailed deer, black bears and timber wolves.

The bad news? Rental units have an occupancy rate of 89 per cent. The really bad news? The weather. In January, average temperatures hover around –12 degrees Celsius. Snowfall averages 219 cm and rainfall, 703.2 mm

What to Do
Elliot Lake boasts easy access to 4,000 lakes with 60 different species of fish, 565 kilometres of groomed snowmobile trails, a ski hill with a manageable 900-metre run, full-service marinas on nearby Lake Huron and two golf courses. For the more artistically inclined, there is a local arts council with 30 groups under its umbrella.

If snowmobiling, hunting and fishing, canoeing and hiking, golfing and skiing just outside the door are part of your retirement dream, the town’s catchphrase — “Better. Believe it.” — rings true.

Health-care Services:
St. Joseph’s General Hospital has a 24-hour emergency department, full laboratory services and an ambulatory care department with chemotherapy and cardiac rehab. The town has three medical clinics, two optometrists, an optician and seven dentists.

Setting up House
Elliot Lake has attracted 350 businesses, including three grocery chain stores and car dealerships, and a dozen churches. Seniors live in some 1,500 rental units administered by the Elliot Lake Retirement Living Program, the town’s biggest realtor. From apartments to detached houses, the program promises the most attractive rents in the province ($500 a month plus utilities for a bungalow). Average housing prices range from $27,000 for a condo or townhouse to $41,000 for a semi and $57,000 for a bungalow.

Niagara-on-the-Lake: Wineries, Eateries and History
This may be the ne plus ultra of retirement spots for active soon-to-be-seniors who like its world-class theatre, old forts, new ice wines, golf and fine dining surrounded by a community of their own kind. In a population of just 13,800, 7,200 people in Niagara-on-the-Lake are over the age of 45. One of the major attractions is its temperate climate: the town lies on the same latitude as Florence and Cannes. It is in the heart of the Ontario wine region.  Celebrated local vineyards account for 84 per cent of Canada’s wine production.

Niagara-on-the-Lake calls itself the loveliest town in Ontario: beautiful homes, mature trees and well-preserved historic charm, and its downtown core is a haven for gourmands and shoppers.

What to Do
Today, its attractions include Fort George, Shaw Festival, Historical Society Museum, he Laura Secord Homestead, a restored heritage business district with art galleries, antique stores and gift shops, and some 12 wineries. There’s also a sailing club, golf clubs and wine tours. A short drive along the scenic Niagara Parkway leads to Queenston Heights and Niagara Falls.

Senior citizens’ clubs are in active operation in Niagara-on-the-Lake. There are also support services for seniors and volunteer opportunities for those 65 and over.

Health-care Services
Niagara-on-the-Lake Hospital is one of Ontario’s premier primary health-care centres. A team of family physicians, supported by a nurse practitioner and an internist, sees more than 130 outpatients a day. The hospital’s services include: acute medical care; chronic and complex continuing care; diagnostic; a primary care health centre; and diabetes, osteoporosis, respiratory and falls intervention clinics. Independent accommodations for seniors can be found at Pleasant Manor, Simcoe Apartments and Upper Canada Lodge. Convalescent care is available at Chateau Gardens Nursing Home and Pleasant Manor.

Setting up House
A selection of properties and building sites are available in the old town and the villages of Virgil, St. David’s and Queenston as well as the surrounding countryside. Average 2002 prices: detached two-storey executive, $255,000; standard two-storey, $165,000. In nearby St. Catharines, the prices are lower: executive two-storey, $195,000 and $115,000 for a standard two-storey.

Next page: Chicoutimi, Brome

Chicoutimi: Go Wild
Chicoutimi, a city of 63,000, lies on the Saguenay River close to Saguenay Provincial Park. Surrounded by clear lakes and dense forests, Chicoutimi is one of the last settled areas below the province’s vast northern wilderness. Over the years, it has grown from a tiny sawmill town into the commercial centre for the region of Lac St. Jean-Saguenay with a bustling harbour and many galleries and craft stores selling the work of local artists.

Chicoutimi’s largest tourist draw is La Vielle Pulperie, five massive brick buildings along the water that house a park, an historic site and a museum to honour the heartiness of the early pulp and forestry business. Architecturally, its buildings are surprisingly reminiscent of cathedrals.

What to Do
The real draw to the area is the Saguenay’s wilds — rivers, lakes, mountains and forest with fishing and hunting to satisfy the most avid lover of the great outdoors. Downstream, along the St. Lawrence River where it begins to empty into the Gulf, is Tadoussac, an ancient whaling village and, for decades, a popular resort. Tour operators take visitors out on the waters to watch the beautiful but dwindling population of beluga whales.

Nearby Jonquière was also a pulp and paper town.  Between them, the two towns boast carnivals, culinary events, hot-air balloon festivals, more than 100 restaurants, 13 retirement homes, four golf clubs, five dance companies, a symphony orchestra, an opera company and seven theatre companies.

Biking, horseback riding, cruising, salmon fishing, hunting, kayaking, golf, rafting, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing are among the most popular sports in the area

Health-care Services
There are 69 physicians, 77 dentists and two hospitals in the area. There is also a 25-bed health centre. Health services offered at the hospitals and centre include emergency services, diagnostic services, cardiology, endocrinology, nephrology, rheumatology, orthopedic surgery, cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, alternative medicine, chiropractic and alcohol treatment.

Setting up House
A standard two-storey home in Chicoutimi goes for $141,000; in nearby Jonquière, it’s a little less at $125,300

Brome (Eastern Townships): Location, Location, Location
Less than an hour from Montreal (80 km) and close to Quebec City (120 km), the Eastern Townships enjoy a privileged location. Visitors are invariably impressed by majestic mountains and glacier-formed lakes. This is actually the foothills of the Appalachians with some surprisingly high peaks. From the tops of Mounts Gosford (1,183 metres) and Mégantic (1,105 metres), visitors can glimpse Mount Washington, the American east’s highest peak. As a mountainous region, the Townships benefit from microclimates that create impressive ecological diversity. Several major waterways span and surround the region, including the Richelieu, St. Francis and Chaudière Rivers. The lakes, the largest in Quebec’s settled regions, are linked to recreational activities and major tourist centres.

Brome is home to tiny British- and Victorian-influenced villages, flavoured by their Irish and Scottish traditions. The countryside is scattered with unusual buildings — round red barns and some of the oldest covered bridges in Quebec. In its countryside, travellers find vineyards or wine routes that roll across vine and apple orchard slopes.

What to Do
Brome (population 300) has three museums, apple orchards, maple sugar farms, and duck, goose, lamb and guinea fowl producers. All the niceties! The area is also home to 12 vineyards, five golf courses, a parachuting club, ice fishing, two downhill skiing locations, 13 art galleries and 11 theatres.

Health-care Services
There are three hospitals in the Brome area, including one with a special intensive care facility.

Setting up House
The average house price for a detached two-storey home in 2002 was $93,177.

Next page: Blainville, Fredericton

Blainville: Peace and Prosperity in the Laurentians
The most famous resort area of Quebec is the Laurentians, an area of 21,576 square kilometres with countless small towns such as St-Jovite, Ste-Agathe, Mont-Tremblant, St-Sauveur and Blainville. The latter, only 30 kilometres north of Montreal, showed the highest gain in population of any city over 25,000 in the early to mid-1990s.

Why is it so popular? Located just north of the Greater Montreal metropolitan area, the Laurentian region offers a privileged living environment ideal for those who wish to combine the serenity of nature with proximity to a large urban centre.

What to Do
For generations now, people have been “going up north” to relax and enjoy the beauty of the Laurentian landscape. The lakes, mountains and forests provide a particularly good setting for a variety of physical activities or outings. As the region boasts the highest concentration of ski resorts in North America, skiing gets top billing when winter rolls around.

In St-Jovite and Mt-Tremblant, the ski racing circuit still attracts thousands of fans every year. Blainville Equestrian Park is world-renowned for its international jumping, reining, dressage and driving events held over a five-week period every summer.

Health-care Services
There is a CLSC in town, but most residents go to Montreal for primary-care.

Setting up House
Average house prices for a detached bungalow in 2002 were $132,000; for an executive detached two-storey, $314,000; for a standard two-storey, $177,000; and for condos, $88,000.

Fredericton: Cultured and Socially Active
The pace is tranquil and the location — on the banks of the peaceful Saint John River — is unbelievably beautiful. And the activities are myriad. Fredericton is an involving city with an inordinate number of social and fitness programs. Golfers have a choice of seven courses, and tennis lovers can play on 33 courts open every day in warm weather. Fredericton has a charming ambiance. Its Victorian homes, imposing provincial assembly building and Christ Church Cathedral (circa 1845) lend an air of class to its wide, manicured streets.

What to Do
Seniors and soon-to-be-seniors can investigate the Stepping Stone, a drop-in centre with information on activities and lifelong learning for those over 50. The Epsilon Golden Games, open to people age 50 and over, are kind of a mini-Olympics for fitness lovers.

Right on the river, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery includes a collection of British paintings from the Elizabethan era, Salvador Dali’s gigantic Santiago el Grande, a collection by Cornelius Krieghoff and works by members of the Group of Seven. Just outside its doors is Fredericton’s riverfront walkway, 60 kilometres of paths that provide a safe and healthy way to visit scores of attractions within a five-block area of the city’s historic downtown. Boaters can dock right in the heart of the city.

Health-care Services
There are about 100 doctors in the Greater Fredericton Area, covering most specialties. There are five hospitals in the area and they include a heart centre plus a rehab centre.

Setting up House
Average house prices range from $65,000 to $400,000 with the average being $120,000.

Next page: Charlottetown, Antigonish

Charlottetown: Island Idyll
It’s been years since this writer visited Charlottetown but even in the late 1970s, it was a beautiful progressive city of wide, tree-lined streets and well-preserved old mansions interspersed with chic boutiques, a bustling harbour and happy-looking tourists. The restaurants were good, the B & Bs were classy, and the Islanders were warm and friendly. Of course, this is variable, but P.E.I. was less crowded, less touristy and more down-home relaxed (never mind all the gawkers squeezed into Green Gables) than Nova Scotia or New Brunswick.

As an historical jewel, of course, Charlottetown was the birthplace of Canada with the Charlottetown Conference in 1864, which set Confederation in motion. It was also the site of the Charlottetown Accord in 1992, which attempted to reform the Constitution. Because it is so stately, Charlottetown seems to attract the serious would-be lawmakers and curious vacationers alike. And perhaps best of all, no place in the province is more than 16 kilometres from the sea.

What to Do
With its small population (58,300 in the area) and its great public transit system, Charlottetown is easy to negotiate. And besides its seaside boardwalk and its annual Hearts in Motion health walk, Charlottetown promises birdwatching, windsurfing and cycling. The Island also has many craftspeople and crafts guilds for potters, weavers, woodworkers, quilters and jewelry-makers.

Readers of Score Magazine also recently rated P.E.I. Canada’s best golf destination. As small as it is, P.E.I. has 30 golf courses

Health-care Services
There are about 200 doctors on the Island. They cover a wide range of services including: oncology, geriatrics, dermatology, cardiology, long-term care, ophthalmology, internal medicine, otolaryngology, surgery and radiology. There are nine hospitals on the Island, two in Charlottetown.

Setting up House
The average cost of a house in Charlottetown is $127,000 for a bungalow, $145,000 for a two-storey and $90,000 for a condo.

Antigonish: Surround Yourself With Beauty — and Art
Known as the Highland Heart of Nova Scotia, Antigonish — the town (population 4,750) and the county it services (population 20,000) — sit on the northeastern shore of the province, bordered by the beaches and vistas of the Northumberland Strait, St. George’s Bay and the Strait of Canso. Halfway between Halifax and Sydney, Antigonish is a gateway to Cape Breton Island. Charming and culturally rich, Antigonish is home to St. Francis Xavier University, founded in 1855 and once famed for its Antigonish Movement, a program of adult education and self-help. Antigonish is also home to the Highland Games, the oldest celebration of Scottish sport and dance in North America.

Besides the ambience, civility and learning opportunities of a university town, Antigonish offers gorgeous countryside at its very doorstep. The interior of the county is all rolling hills and pretty lakes. Le Village Acadien de Pomquet is an Acadian village — complete with a beach and a provincial park — just 10 kilometres east. The North Shore offers a wildlife sanctuary, and at the Cape George Point Lighthouse, you can peer into the distance and see Cape Breton Island and Prince Edward Island.

What to Do
Artists and would-be artists will think they have died and gone to heaven in Antigonish. The area is home to scores of galleries. 

Health-care Services
St. Martha’s Hospital in Antigonish has 75 beds. As the area’s regional hospital, it offers emergency, outpatient, lab and clinical services, diagnostic imaging, physiotherapy, diabetes education, geriatric assessment and rehabilitation programs in a five-bed veterans’ unit.  There are more than 61 medical staff and five hospitals working within the health district that includes Antigonish.

Setting up House
Housing prices in Antigonish are $105,000 for a detached bungalow; $120,000 for a two-storey house; and $170,000 for an executive two-storey.

Next page: Digby,  St. John’s Nfld.

Digby: Fall in Love
Stroll along the Annapolis Basin. Pick out your own private section of beach and have a picnic. Watch the sunset. Walk down Water Street where shops and restaurants are built on pilings out over the water. Dine on scallops and lobster, fresh from the ocean. Go whale-watching and birdwatching on Digby Neck. Visit historic Annapolis Royal with its 18th-century feel. Golf the finest 18-hole championship course in Atlantic Canada. Curl. Play volleyball. Go home and build a roaring fire and snuggle up. Digby is as romantic as it gets.

Digby is a town of only 2,300, not counting the summer folk who swell its numbers every year. It is situated at the western end of Nova Scotia’s beautiful 155-kilometre long Annapolis Valley, only 240 kilometres from Halifax and a short drive to the world’s strongest and highest tides in St. Mary’s Bay and the Bay of Fundy, summer home for seals; dolphins, and finback, humpback and minke whales. The very rare right whale also frequents these waters.

What to Do
A lively combination of French, English and Scottish backgrounds in the area produces some popular events and festivals: the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival in May; the Antigonish Highland Games in mid-July; and the Atlantic Jazz Festival at the end of July. The Halifax International Buskerfest, a 10-day celebration of street performers, takes place in August, and the Hants County Exhibition is in the early fall.

The Digby Golf Club’s course was designed by the world renowned Stanley Thompson and offers a magnificent panoramic view of the sea. Its Royal Canadian Golf Association rating is 70.0 and the slope rates at 121.

Health-care Services:
The Digby General Hospital provides 24-hour emergency care, outpatient services, inpatient medical care and restorative, convalescent and continuing care. With a staff of 130, it serves a rural area of about 10,000 citizens. Its services include physiotherapy, social work, a women’s clinic and a heart failure clinic.

Setting up House
The average house price for a detached bungalow is $78,566 and for a two story $104,333.

St. John’s, Nfld.: The City of Legends
St. John’s is a haven for anyone who loves history and a feeling of old-world charm. The city of 173,000 surrounds a landlocked harbour on the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula. Because of its proximity to the Atlantic’s Grand Banks fishing grounds, St. John’s served as a commercial centre for hundreds of years after its “discovery” by Europeans in the 1400s. That history combined with a natural small-town quality make the city a comfort to negotiate. A combination of cultural festivals and wildlife tours add variety.

St. John’s has scores of museums, art galleries, libraries and six historical societies. Residents claim, history is on every corner. Indeed, many of the city’s narrow, winding streets still resemble old London, and its buildings are reminiscent of small-town Ireland, probably due to the influence of its predominately Anglo-Saxon and Irish settlers.

What To Do
Always proud of its past, today, St. John’s thrives as the economic, political and cultural centre of the province. It is home to Atlantic Canada’s largest university and the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and the Newfoundland Museum. Many of these attractions can be visited on foot. St. John’s has a Grand Concourse with 40 kilometres of trails and walkways within the city. It also offers bowling, tennis, fishing, boating, golf, skating, curling and horse racing.

St John’s also has the only public fluvarium in North America, created by the diversion of a brook and the construction of nine underwater windows in an open system that allows the general public to stand and watch the underwater world go by.

Health-care Services:
The Health Care Corporation of St. John’s, with some 500 physicians, is the largest health-care organization in the province, providing services to about 200,000 people in the St. John’s region and serving as the major referral centre for the entire province. Included under its umbrella are the General Hospital acute care centre, home to the city’s Cardiology Research Group (four physicians and six research nurses), St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital, Dr. Leonard A. Miller Centre and The Waterford Hospital (mental) and The Dr. Walter Templeton Health Centre for cancer treatment.

Setting Up House
In 2002, house prices for a detached bungalow were $108,000; a two-storey $159,667; and a condo, $109,000.

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