Canada's most cultured cities - Macleans.ca
 

Canada’s most cultured cities

When it comes to culture, west is best, it seems.


 

Canada's most cultured cities

Calgary, the city that caused an uproar in the rest of Canada when it topped our list of Most Cultured Cities last year, comes out on top again. But of the top five cities on the Canadian Council on Learning’s “learning to be” pillar, four—Calgary, Victoria, Saskatoon and Regina—are in Western Canada. A closer look at this list of some of the largest cities and urban areas shows that Victoria had the most readers, Calgary had the highest percentage of museum-goers, and more households in Saskatoon than anywhere attended paid performing arts events. And what of cities like Montreal and Toronto? Check near the bottom of the lists.

CITY ‘LEARNING TO BE’ SCORE PER CENT WHO SPEND ON READING PER CENT WHO SPEND ON THE PERFORMING ARTS PER CENT WHO SPEND ON MUSEUMS
Calgary 7.3 80.8% 41.5% 48.1%
Victoria 7.1 88.8 42.3 38.6
Saskatoon 7.1 84.0 52.4 40.7
Regina 6.7 84.8 47.8 39.5
Halifax 6.2 79.3 42.0 41.1
Winnipeg 5.8 78.8 44.6 36.4
Edmonton 5.6 79.2 39.9 29.7
Fredericton* 5.6 81.8 43.1 30.3
Toronto 5.4 70.4 38.7 35.1
Vancouver 5.1 70.9 36.4 28.9
Québec 5.1 78.3 46.3 30.7
St.
John’s
5.0 74.9 44.3 24.4
London* 4.9 71.5 n/a n/a
Charlottetown 4.9 78.0 41.6 21.8
Moncton* 4.3 75.9 31.8 27.0
Montréal 4.3 72.4 37.5 24.7
Saint John 3.0 68.3 31.0 n/a

 
Source: Statistics Canada, special tabulation, unpublished data, Survey of Household Spending, 2007. Unless indicated, data reflects Census Metropolitan Areas.

* Data for these cities only available at the economic region level.

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Canada’s most cultured cities

  1. This comparison is completely flawed. It is based on the percentage of people that spend money on a particular activity. However, many cultural events are free and one can be very active without spending a dime. Take Vancouver for example. People are very active with hiking, jogging, rollerblading, bicycling etc. none of which requires spending any money. Similarly, Montreal has numerous free cultural events (in many of the parks across the city there is free theatre and danse throughout the summer). I suspect the fact that Calgary comes out on top of these lists stems from the fact that it tends to be a wealthy city and as a result if you judge by spending more people spend money on culture and being active but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are more cultured or more active.

    • Why should the purchase of culture be the definitive mark of how cultural a city is? Wouldn’t attendance of cultural events within a city (free or not) be a better marker? Cities like Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver have many free cultural events that are easily accessible to a good portion of the population so you don’t need to spend to be cultured. For example, in Toronto cultural events like Luminato, Blanche Nuit, and various music fests tend to be packed, and you don’t need to spend a dime.

      • Let me get this straight, they ask people how they spend thier money? "oh yes I spend uh-um $10,000 yearly on arts & culture events & $5000 alone on the Stampede!"

      • Toronto is a cultural wasteland.

      • All this survey proves is that Calgarians tend to have more disposable income than other cities (not surprising given the oil boom of a few years back) and that they have nothing better to spend it on. Ridiculous.

    • I agree with the comments 2 previous posters. You will be hard pressed to find a city of 1mm with a more redneck or narrow minded perspective than Calgary AB anywhere in the world..

      • Most reports I’ve seen about Vancouver over the past decades praise us for being cultured and I agree. However, you don’t have to look very hard to find rednecks and narrow-mindedness here. I suspect that’s true of any major urban centre.

      • Sour grapes comment. Get a life!

  2. This comparison is completely flawed. It is based on the percentage of people that spend money on a particular activity. However, many cultural events are free and one can be very active without spending a dime. Take Vancouver for example. People are very active with hiking, jogging, rollerblading, bicycling etc. none of which requires spending any money. Similarly, Montreal has numerous free cultural events (in many of the parks across the city there is free theatre and danse throughout the summer). I suspect the fact that Calgary comes out on top of these lists stems from the fact that it tends to be a wealthy city and as a result if you judge by spending more people spend money on culture and being active but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are more cultured or more active.

  3. Why should the purchase of culture be the definitive mark of how cultural a city is? Wouldn’t attendance of cultural events within a city (free or not) be a better marker? Cities like Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver have many free cultural events that are easily accessible to a good portion of the population so you don’t need to spend to be cultured. For example, in Toronto cultural events like Luminato, Blanche Nuit, and various music fests tend to be packed, and you don’t need to spend a dime.

  4. I agree with the comments 2 previous posters. You will be hard pressed to find a city of 1mm with a more redneck or narrow minded perspective than Calgary AB anywhere in the world..

  5. Most reports I’ve seen about Vancouver over the past decades praise us for being cultured and I agree. However, you don’t have to look very hard to find rednecks and narrow-mindedness here. I suspect that’s true of any major urban centre.

  6. I have to defend my city by saying that Montreal has one of North America's most used library systems.

  7. I have to defend my city by saying that Montreal has one of North America's most used library systems.

    • I live in Vancouver. I've bean to Montreal – what a great city, I've also been to Calgary – ok place but above Montreal? in my opinion; NO.

  8. I'm happy to see my city of Saskatoon on here, we seem to be on every list Maclean's does good or bad…
    after visiting many big cities across Canada the last few years, Saskatoon IS indeed a cultural gem in the middle of the flat lands and for its size can easily compete with cities of any size.

    With a lot of flack going on because of some of the judgment due to 'paid attendance'…being a musician you don't get paid unless someone wants to pay to see you! (of course unless you are a big city with big corporate sponsors)
    The live music scene in Saskatoon is one of Canada's best kept secrets, any day of the week you can experience fantastic local/ national live music somewhere or play a paid gig somewhere.

    Big Cheers from Saskatoon!

  9. I'm happy to see my city of Saskatoon on here, we seem to be on every list Maclean's does good or bad…
    after visiting many big cities across Canada the last few years, Saskatoon IS indeed a cultural gem in the middle of the flat lands and for its size can easily compete with cities of any size.

    With a lot of flack going on because of some of the judgment due to 'paid attendance'…being a musician you don't get paid unless someone wants to pay to see you! (of course unless you are a big city with big corporate sponsors)
    The live music scene in Saskatoon is one of Canada's best kept secrets, any day of the week you can experience fantastic local/ national live music somewhere or play a paid gig somewhere.

    Big Cheers from Saskatoon!

  10. Ottawa has a score of 6.2 for Learning to Be but it is not listed as one of Canada's most cultured cities?? It should rank as 5th or 6th! A big oversight on Macleans part. (Maybe they were trying to emphasize the cities out west so they skipped Ottawa!?)

  11. Ottawa has a score of 6.2 for Learning to Be but it is not listed as one of Canada's most cultured cities?? It should rank as 5th or 6th! A big oversight on Macleans part. (Maybe they were trying to emphasize the cities out west so they skipped Ottawa!?)

  12. The Calgary Stampede is good for something after all EH YA"ll?

  13. The Calgary Stampede is good for something after all EH YA"ll?

    • Generally for tourists only! Mostly from the eastern provinces.

  14. I live in Vancouver. I've bean to Montreal – what a great city, I've also been to Calgary – ok place but above Montreal? in my opinion; NO.

  15. Let me get this straight, they ask people how they spend thier money? "oh yes I spend uh-um $10,000 yearly on arts & culture events & $5000 alone on the Stampede!"

  16. The Calgary Stampede is not a cultural event. It's a corporate excuse to drink for a week and wear jeans to work.

  17. The Calgary Stampede is not a cultural event. It's a corporate excuse to drink for a week and wear jeans to work.

  18. Sour grapes comment. Get a life!

  19. Generally for tourists only! Mostly from the eastern provinces.

  20. Toronto is a cultural wasteland.

  21. Calgary is the biggest cultural sewer I've ever had the misfortune of living in. This survey is a crock.

  22. Calgary is the biggest cultural sewer I've ever had the misfortune of living in. This survey is a crock.

  23. All this survey proves is that Calgarians tend to have more disposable income than other cities (not surprising given the oil boom of a few years back) and that they have nothing better to spend it on. Ridiculous.

  24. I agree, other cities like Vancouver and Montreal should have been much higher on this list. But I have only been to a handful of these cities, and I can only judge the ones I have not been to based on my outside view. Perhaps that is where a lot of you cannot see the culture Calgary has. Of course I live here, so I am slightly bias. But I am a student and do not have a huge disposable income. However, there's a TON of aspects within this city that make it quite cultural (other than Stampede – which can be debated on its cultural aspect as well). I don't believe our culture is as out in the open as other cities, but when you look for the possible activities available, there is definitely not a lack. And you don't necessarily need a huge income to access what the city has to offer.But I will never deny that there are other cities that would seem like the more obvious choice for number one. And we are definitely more than just a bunch of hicks, and I don't know anyone in this city who fits into that stereotype (although it is fun to live up to once a year!).

  25. I agree, other cities like Vancouver and Montreal should have been much higher on this list. But I have only been to a handful of these cities, and I can only judge the ones I have not been to based on my outside view. Perhaps that is where a lot of you cannot see the culture Calgary has. Of course I live here, so I am slightly bias. But I am a student and do not have a huge disposable income. However, there's a TON of aspects within this city that make it quite cultural (other than Stampede – which can be debated on its cultural aspect as well). I don't believe our culture is as out in the open as other cities, but when you look for the possible activities available, there is definitely not a lack. And you don't necessarily need a huge income to access what the city has to offer.But I will never deny that there are other cities that would seem like the more obvious choice for number one. And we are definitely more than just a bunch of hicks, and I don't know anyone in this city who fits into that stereotype (although it is fun to live up to once a year!).

    • I've been living in Calgary, as an artist, for decades and it's filled with hicks, hacks and rednecks… It's culturally retarded. They've put in a super board that is overseeing all funding, with not a single artist on the board! It also just put into place a Film czar! Not to mention you can't see anything for free, because everything is so underfunded! Also, it crazy how often Artists are censored, like right now, a show is being censored as we speak! And when it comes to the media they are the first, but not the last, to inappropriately characterizes artists and putting them next to the ex con, in the food chain. . Specially around election time, that's when they really give it to us, always roping us in with a liberal agenda… yes they are quick to make examples of us Calgary artists, who use public funding, and are even quicker to use us as a scapegoat. Calgary is fascist.

      • Maybe you just suck as an artist

  26. I've been living in Calgary, as an artist, for decades and it's filled with hicks, hacks and rednecks… It's culturally retarded. They've put in a super board that is overseeing all funding, with not a single artist on the board! It also just put into place a Film czar! Not to mention you can't see anything for free, because everything is so underfunded! Also, it crazy how often Artists are censored, like right now, a show is being censored as we speak! And when it comes to the media they are the first, but not the last, to inappropriately characterizes artists and putting them next to the ex con, in the food chain. . Specially around election time, that's when they really give it to us, always roping us in with a liberal agenda… yes they are quick to make examples of us Calgary artists, who use public funding, and are even quicker to use us as a scapegoat. Calgary is fascist.

  27. Wow… as a Calgarian who makes her living working in the Arts… I'm surprised at some of the sour comments above! Yes, arts here are underfunded, but I think the point is that Calgarians are big patrons of the arts. Compared to many of the cities I've lived in, Calgary has an abundance of reasonably priced cultural activies – even folks like me (and I don't make much, working in a non-profit) can afford to get out and experience things. Whether those things are big ticket items like the Broadway on Tour shows, or the huge, huge, amount of community theatre shows happening at any time which can often be bought for less than a fast food meal. I think it is safe to say that we would love all arts in all cities to be thriving … so instead of whining and calling other places 'redneck' out of ignorance and stereo-typing, channel that energy and write, paint, act, or be an audience for the starving artists out there.

    • You are just another boring canadian falling into despair..climb out you poor man before you die of boredom.

  28. Wow… as a Calgarian who makes her living working in the Arts… I'm surprised at some of the sour comments above! Yes, arts here are underfunded, but I think the point is that Calgarians are big patrons of the arts. Compared to many of the cities I've lived in, Calgary has an abundance of reasonably priced cultural activies – even folks like me (and I don't make much, working in a non-profit) can afford to get out and experience things. Whether those things are big ticket items like the Broadway on Tour shows, or the huge, huge, amount of community theatre shows happening at any time which can often be bought for less than a fast food meal. I think it is safe to say that we would love all arts in all cities to be thriving … so instead of whining and calling other places 'redneck' out of ignorance and stereo-typing, channel that energy and write, paint, act, or be an audience for the starving artists out there.

  29. The stats show the changing nature of Canada and the effect of higher incomes as the resource rich western part of the country surges past the industrial east. Thank God we are a confederation of provinces that provide assistance across a very large land mass and we have the ease to migrate wherever our desires take us. Northern Alberta has more Maritimers than the East Coast and Calgary has an Asian population that helps our education statistics reach such high levels. 8% of Calgarians, or 80,000 out of a population of 1M, are registerted Americans. The change in Calgary the past twenty years is due to the large number of company head offices that are either home grown or transplants from cities such as Toronto, Imperial OIl for an example. As a former Winnipeger, now living in Calgary, I make new acquaintances quite freguently and more often than not they are new to Calgary however they are staying for all the right reasons.

  30. The stats show the changing nature of Canada and the effect of higher incomes as the resource rich western part of the country surges past the industrial east. Thank God we are a confederation of provinces that provide assistance across a very large land mass and we have the ease to migrate wherever our desires take us. Northern Alberta has more Maritimers than the East Coast and Calgary has an Asian population that helps our education statistics reach such high levels. 8% of Calgarians, or 80,000 out of a population of 1M, are registerted Americans. The change in Calgary the past twenty years is due to the large number of company head offices that are either home grown or transplants from cities such as Toronto, Imperial OIl for an example. As a former Winnipeger, now living in Calgary, I make new acquaintances quite freguently and more often than not they are new to Calgary however they are staying for all the right reasons.

  31. How were our ancestors able to get by without jogging, canoeing, kayaking, caving, running courses, and all without certification? We should all be dead.

    Defining culture as a trip to a museum with the youngsters on a Sunday? Or formalized swimming, soccer, and generalized play. It's retarded. When I lived in Calgary I met a man from Bucharest who was shocked that I knew so much about Romania. I had read the book "Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite" and we discussed Causeaucu's effect on the country. He said he had never met a Canadian who knew anything about the Balkans. This was before the war. I joked "I haven't met a Canadian who knew anything about Newfoundland or any part of eastern Canada for that matter. Try getting a Canadian to label an unlabled map. Apparently, going to a museum without knowing what you're looking at counts as culture in this part of the continent (how can we fault Americans when we're just as ignorant?)

  32. How were our ancestors able to get by without jogging, canoeing, kayaking, caving, running courses, and all without certification? We should all be dead.

    Defining culture as a trip to a museum with the youngsters on a Sunday? Or formalized swimming, soccer, and generalized play. It's retarded. When I lived in Calgary I met a man from Bucharest who was shocked that I knew so much about Romania. I had read the book "Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite" and we discussed Causeaucu's effect on the country. He said he had never met a Canadian who knew anything about the Balkans. This was before the war. I joked "I haven't met a Canadian who knew anything about Newfoundland or any part of eastern Canada for that matter. Try getting a Canadian to label an unlabled map. Apparently, going to a museum without knowing what you're looking at counts as culture in this part of the continent (how can we fault Americans when we're just as ignorant?)

  33. I'm ashamed to say I'm Canadian. Westerners should be happy that we give them a good name. Everywhere we go in the world we're the ultimate ambassadors for Canada, with little appreciation. We de-boriy Canadians, especially, westerners. Shows like 'Corner Gas' and 'Little Mosque on the Prairie' give us a bad name. Canadians should bow down for Newfoundlanders. We redeem Canada and rescue us that boring image.

  34. Maybe you just suck as an artist

  35. I am proud to live in Victoria (#2). It is an amazing place to live and work. It is a very impressive city.

  36. I am proud to live in Victoria (#2). It is an amazing place to live and work. It is a very impressive city.

  37. I've been in Calgary many times and my son works there. It's near the Rockies and it's really fabulous.
    Calgary is good for business; people are nice but business-oriented. Forget the environment … Sorry, but business first.
    Calgary is everything except a cultural city; maybe the Stampede is counted as a cultural event ! For me it is a sporting event.

    But it is a great city. Saying that Montreal is not ranked amongst the best cultural cities in Canada is simply reading the stats without looking at the data used.

  38. I've been in Calgary many times and my son works there. It's near the Rockies and it's really fabulous.
    Calgary is good for business; people are nice but business-oriented. Forget the environment … Sorry, but business first.
    Calgary is everything except a cultural city; maybe the Stampede is counted as a cultural event ! For me it is a sporting event.

    But it is a great city. Saying that Montreal is not ranked amongst the best cultural cities in Canada is simply reading the stats without looking at the data used.

  39. Very pleased to see that the percent who spend on reading is much more higher than other.

  40. Very pleased to see that the percent who spend on reading is much more higher than other.

  41. Just wondered about the info you have posted and it seems to be great resource.Thanks for sharing.

  42. Just wondered about the info you have posted and it seems to be great resource.Thanks for sharing.

  43. I think this is a bit silly. Just because certain cities spend money on things doesn't necessarily mean they are more cultured. What happens if people in Charlottetown read twice as much but they get their books from the library. I guess any of these polls are biased in some way depending on the categories chosen. None the less, I think more reading, performing arts, and museums are probably good for all of us.

  44. I think this is a bit silly. Just because certain cities spend money on things doesn't necessarily mean they are more cultured. What happens if people in Charlottetown read twice as much but they get their books from the library. I guess any of these polls are biased in some way depending on the categories chosen. None the less, I think more reading, performing arts, and museums are probably good for all of us.

  45. I live in Calgary and believe Calgary has almost no culture compared to other cities in Canada such as Vancouver, Winnipeg, Halifax, Montreal and even Edmonton. Culture is vibrancy in a city, having artists and musicians living (and performing) in your city, free cultural events (Calgary’s all cost money) and having free spirited residents (hippy if you will, and I don’t mean Vancouver’s yoga style, Starbucks drinking, LA wann’a-be “hippies”). Calgary’s vibrancy consists of being stuck in traffic on the weekend heading to IKEA for some family shopping. Does spending money on mass-produced artwork from Urban Barn count as culture? If so Calgary is #1.
     
    All this study has shown is the amount of disposable income Calgarians have, although I am proud that cities such as Halifax and Winnipeg (and possibly Saskatoon and Regina although I don’t know because I’ve never been there), where there is less money to throw around, have scored decently-well in this study. These places are Canada’s true cultural centers where you can find people with no money absorbed in the cultural scene and disproportionate amount of talented artists / musicians living. People move to these places for the lifestyle and they move to Calgary for the jobs and money.
     
    Unless oil and gas is considered culture, Calgary should be at the bottom of this list along with Ottawa. Sorry Frank, Ottawa is as straight and narrow as they come. Almost government-esque.
     
    PS – Nickelback is the epitome of Calgary culture. Need I say more?  

  46. First off…One time out of the year event does not count as cultural in the States. It might in Canada but as far as I know personally living in Calgary is that having a stampede once a year does not mean cultural it just means a big rip off. The Stampede is the biggest cultural rip off scam in north america. The people in Calgary, of course they are going to lie on the internet and newspapers that Calgary is super and the Stampede is awesome. I would rather buy a ticket to Six Flaggs in the States than have to sit through one more Canadian boring singer and off beat music! It’s like a damn funeral every single day here. Calgary is a very zombified city. Boring…useless…falling aslee

  47. I’d have to say Toronto is the most cultured city in Canada. With it’s huge LGBT scene, many, many festivals and over 140 different ethnicities. Toronto is easily the most cultured. Vancouver would come in at a close second.