Vancouver received some bad news today: After nearly a decade of appearing at the top of the Economist Intelligence Unit's ranking of the world's most liveable cities, the Canadian metropolis had fallen to third place behind Melbourne, Australia and Vienna, Austria. What did Vancouver in? A tweak to Vancouver's score for transportation infrastructure because of "intermittent closures" of the Malahat highway (while it seems unfair to blame the city for issues like an oil spill from an overturned tanker, the government was blamed for its clumsy response to the accident).
In Vancouver, reaction has come in the form of outrage, soul-searching, and reassurances. The local talk radio station CKNW calls the decision to lower the city's score because of highway closures "baffling," adding that the Malahat, which is on Vancouver Island, is "near Victoria, not Vancouver" ("that's like saying Amsterdam is not a livable city because of London's gridlock," scoffed one online commentator in the city). The Vancouver Sun points out that the violent and destructive rioting in the city following the Vancouver Canucks' loss in the Stanley Cup in June didn't factor into Vancouver's score, though the report warned that it "could lead to further downward revisions of Vancouver’s overall score in future surveys" (why is the Economist Intelligence Unit suddenly sounding like a quality-of-life version of those finger-wagging credit rating agencies?). The paper adds that a mere 0.2 points separated Vancouver from Melbourne and that Vancouver scored much higher than Melbourne and Vienna for culture and environment. Many commentators at The Vancouver Sun's website are citing crime, bad weather, a high cost of living, and substandard public transportation as reasons why Vancouver should have never topped the liveability list. "A liveable city, to me, means that all my money doesn't go to rent, forcing me to seek out the cheapest groceries possible in order to eat, which keeps me healthy, to go to work, so I can pay that rent!" one commentator proclaimed. "Screw the scenery! I need to LIVE!" Still, we imagine Vancouver's tourism officials won't be thrilled about the lower ranking. Tourism Vancouver's Media Kit currently touts Vancouver's longstanding distinction as the world's most liveable city.