Small Canadian cities rank high on environmental scorecard that has a few surprises

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A new environmental scorecard says Canada’s biggest cities have lower scores than most small and medium-sized municipalities, but a closer look at the data reveals some surprises.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal Environment International, rates 30 cities and towns on nine indicators related to health, including air quality, heat and cold waves, ultraviolet radiation, access to green spaces and other factors.

The results are compiled in the new Canadian Environmental Quality Index, produced by researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Daniel Rainham, the study’s senior author and a Dalhousie professor, says Canada’s largest cities — Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton — posted relatively low scores, but some of their neighbourhoods scored on the high end, especially in Toronto.

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Medium-sized and small cities scored the highest, including Victoria, Sherbrooke, Que., and the Ontario cities of London, Guelph, Barrie, Kitchener and Kingston — with Halifax, Regina and Moncton, N.B., also making the top 10.

At the other end of the scale, one small city — Kelowna, B.C. — received a lower score than most of the big cities, but some of its neighbourhoods were rated at the very top of the scale.

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“It’s not an easy story to tell,” Rainham said in an interview. “Even though the average values may tell you one thing, there’s a lot of variability within those cities.”

As an example, he said Toronto has some of the unhealthiest neighbourhoods in Canada, though the city ranked highest among the big cities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2022.

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