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Sault Ste Marie Rated 129th - No Way

Sunday, March 16, 2014   by: Mac Headrick

Apparently the magazine MoneySense recently ranked Sault Ste Marie 129 out of 201 cities as the best place to live in Canada. In today’s column I intend to offer my perspective on the MoneySense article. Please keep in mind the survey that supports the magazines results isn’t published until April/2014. 

Admittedly it is very difficult for me to present an impartial view on living in Sault Ste Marie. Outside of brief periods of my life I have always called this city home. My initial impression is that the 129th ranking is lower than expected. In 2013 the Sault was ranked 108th and in 2012 we were positioned at 60th place. What happened in the last two years? 

I know weather is a factor in the rating. Relative to this subject I believe Sault Ste Marie has a tremendous advantage over the majority of other Canadian cities. Yes the winters are long and cold. Have you notice our area, perhaps due to the lake effect, doesn’t experience tornados, ice storms, massive flooding, etc? 

Housing prices have risen in Sault Ste Marie but are still a bargain compared to other urban centers. I am a casual fan of the many television fix it, list it, renovate it, and so on programs. In large cities the same home that would cost $180,000 in Sault Ste Marie is often 400 percent more. Even Sudbury that finished in 70th place, it costs significantly more to buy a comparable home. Obviously MoneySense did not consider snow removal (city services) or driving gridlock in the survey when ranking Sudbury. 

Our senior city officials, Mayor Debbie Amaroso and CAO Joe Fratesi, disagreed with the relatively low ranking of our city. I generally agree with both of them. 

First, to the remarks of Mr. Fratesi; he alluded to the level of services Sault Ste Marie is committed to. I often have read comments on this site critical of snow removal. I respectfully disagree with the individuals making those remarks. It has only happened twice in 28 years since I have lived in the east end but when I needed help from the City Board of Works, the service was excellent. I believe and agree with Joe that Sault Ste Marie provides a high level of service. 

There has been a significant investment in our city (and it continues) in recreational facilities. Presently city staff is working on updating the Parks and Recreation Master Plan. Three new sports are coming online in our city this year; cricket, Ultimate Frisbee and pickle ball. I know what you are thinking “Pickle ball”! Think tennis with a lower net and smaller playing surface perhaps the size of a badminton court. 

Our Mayor Debbie Amaroso stated “People make their decision on where they’re going to live based on family ties and demographics first, augmented by good employment opportunities”. 

Now, I agree with this statement but wonder about the “good employment opportunities” part. Is this something that needs to improve locally to reflect a better ranking? The Mayor referred to unprecedented growth of tax rates in the commercial area. My less optimistic view of the local economy is not fact based. It just seems to me that on a regular basis I hear of young people leaving Sault Ste Marie to seek their careers elsewhere. Invariably the parents then retire to southern Ontario. I generally like and agree with the interaction of the 2010-2014 city council. The one area in which this group could and should improve is their support for local developers. Perhaps you may disagree with this assessment and choose the NIMBY philosophy. I am going to make it a point to read the survey results when published. I am very curious as to what weight if any was related to the local economy. 

It appears that the surrounding area outside a city location is not a significant factor in the survey. A twenty minute drive out of Sault Ste Marie and you hit some pretty spectacular scenery along with fine camping opportunities. North of the city are great beaches and stunning Lake Superior views. Hunting, fishing, skiing, four wheeling etc are conveniently located close by. 

Finally, this is the home town of the Brad Jacobs’s rink and Mac Marcoux. Wow… what words can adequately express our appreciation for these athletes!! 

As I see it Sault Ste Marie is a great place to live. I look forward to the April issue of MoneySense. I question the 129th place ranking but everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
Javaman 3/16/2014 8:27:08 PM Report

Lets face it..we are REMOTE. WE DO NOT have a 4 lane highway into our city.On a map we are somewhere between Thunder Bay and Sudbury
On the plus side we have decent air transportation in and out of our city. We are a border city offering easy access to American markets. We have much natural beauty and terrific rivers, lakes and streams. We have affordable housing and wonderful arts activities for those interested in theatre.
I think the factor keeping us from growing is the REMOTENESS.
Just Curious 3/19/2014 7:36:05 AM Report

Mac, agree with you pretty much all the way regarding the Soo. I have lived in quite a few places in my life and the Soo is the only one that has really felt like home. And lest we forget when talking about some of the noteworthy people that are products of the Soo, There is Roberta Bondar, the Nolans,a governor general plus several other very notable people. Perhaps one should make a list, if one doesn't exist already, an post it on the cities web site..
right wing 3/20/2014 9:24:44 AM Report


I'd say we do have a four lane highway somewhat into our you mentioned we live on a border town.
The I-75 is a bridge crossing away.
When the four lane is complete between Sudbury and Toronto...and it is getting there...and then one day a four lane between Sudbury and the Sault...yes I like to dream...Imagine what a great run that would be.


Agree with your take on our excellent city.
MoneySense...who cares.
So many folks that move away from this city and then return all tell the same story....they couldn't wait to get back.
fatafr 3/20/2014 11:06:02 AM Report

Without a doubt, most people you talk to, young and not so young, think the Soo is a great place. But, what I think is really important is to dwell on the positive rather than continually repeat the negative. SSM, though it is somewhat isolated, is still one of the big 4 northern cities in N.Ont. and we must continue to be aggressive and push for development. SSM is after all, the real "Gateway to the North". I think the economy and quality of life are huge issues when it comes to this ranking of the best places to live in Canada. 129th out of 201 isn't a terrible place to be but to drop from 60th in 2012 sends out some serious concerns that I don't think anyone of us should take lightly.
I've always said we have two items that concern me. One, is being on the border, we seem to experience the negatives of seeing our disposable income travel south with very little coming north. Two, we need to have more neighbourly cooperation so if we work together, we have more political strength and can attain better economic development for which we all would benefit. One example is to create a safer flow of traffic and to finally see our so called by-pass be completed. I know I keep saying this but when is it going to happen and why don't our neighbours see this as being just as important to them as it is to the people of SSM.
A smooth flowing transportation system is vital to all of us, both from an economic stand point, safety and quality of life.
On a per capita basis, I don't think there is a better place to live. But, change needs to occur and we must create ways to keep our young people here. An aging population expects us to promote economic development; taxes must be kept down so many of these seniors who helped build this great City can continue to remain in their homes.
SSM has so much potential. But we must all work and pull together, in the same direction. I think we can certainly see our ranking improve substantially over the next couple of years.
Talk to you later Mac.
Javaman 3/20/2014 3:44:24 PM Report

Justin Trudeau will see that the bypass is completed and we get that 4 lane. He is promising mega bucks for infrastructure improvements.
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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