South Dundas - March 23, 2012 - There has been a lot of hullabaloo over the rankings released by Moneysense Magazine and where cities fit into this special list. Cornwall saw a large year-over-year decline in the rankings, which has led for the area's most fervent critics to drop another load of bovine excrement on their blogs as to how bad things are in the region. To those, and to anyone else reading, I ask this very key question: Does this ranking, or any ranking, really matter?
Moneysense Magazine is first and foremost a business, in the business of selling it's magazines. Magazine editors love surveys and rankings, they are easy space filler, and if something written gets people taking about their magazine, good or bad, then it will help sales. The rankings of "best place to live" however is erroneous at best, because the authors compared apples to oranges. Comparing Cornwall to Ottawa for jobs, quality of life, amenities, taxes and such is flawed because you cannot fairly compare a city of 46,340 to a city of 883,391. You may as well compare Morrisburg to New York City.
We are inundated with surveys and rankings. Look at the recent Fraser Institute report on Ontario Schools. Much was made about the rankings again, yet just in Cornwall and SD&G alone - four schools were not even in the rankings. Flawed rankings, flawed methods, flawed numbers. The survey doesn't matter.
Even the critics can't get the numbers right when they try to compare apples to oranges. Take tax rates for example. If you are comparing Apples and Oranges, a homeowner in Cornwall will pay a higher tax rate than a homeowner in Ottawa, because Ottawa has a larger tax-base - as that tax rate is spread out across many more taxpayers. Ottawa has 19 times the population of Cornwall.
According to the City of Cornwall, the Municipal Tax Rate is 0.01589643 and the Education Tax Rate is 0.00231000. Compare that to the City of Ottawa, where the Municipal Tax Rate is 0.01006511. The Education Tax Rate is the same. A house valued at $194,000 in Cornwall would pay $3,532 per year, and the same valuation in Orleans would be $2,491 (not $1,940 as suggested). Don't forget you have to always include the Education portion on your taxes, you can't compare two communities and forget one of the tax rates!
Answer this though - what kind of a house can you get for $194,000 in Cornwall? Compare that to $194,000 in Orleans or anywhere in Ottawa for that matter. Spending $194,000 in Cornwall will get you a very nice detatched three or four bedroom home. That same amount in Ottawa will get you a three-bedroom attached (middle-unit) townhouse on the extreme outskirts of the city in Greely. Not apples and oranges.
If you truly feel the need to compare or rank communities, then remember what they teach you in Grade One - compare like with like. A good comparison to Cornwall would be Chatham, Ontario. Similar population to Cornwall (44,074), both are cities that once had heavy industrial bases, both have been hit with instability in the jobs market. Compare like with like.
How does Cornwall compare? Cornwall's combined Tax Rate is 0.01820643, Chatham's is 0.01835651. Does that mean that Cornwall ranks higher because it's tax rate is lower? Does that mean that Cornwall is better than Chatham? That's someone's opinion, but does it matter?
What does matter is whether people in Cornwall are doing their best to make their home the best place to live, for them. A ranking or a survey in a magazine is not going to get someone to move here, or make someone not want to move here. People move to areas, stay in area, for reasons of family, jobs, connections. They don't come for the mud being flung in one direction or another.
Surveys in the end, are only worth the paper they are written on.
Tax Rate - City of Ottawa
Tax Rate - City of Cornwall
Tax Rate - Municipality of Chatham-Kent