Canada and the World

WOE CANADA: Best No More

We’re no longer No. 1, but hey—it’s only a little UN index, right?

Berton Woodward July 16 2001
Canada and the World

WOE CANADA: Best No More

We’re no longer No. 1, but hey—it’s only a little UN index, right?

Berton Woodward July 16 2001

WOE CANADA: Best No More

Canada and the World

We’re no longer No. 1, but hey—it’s only a little UN index, right?

So. How to console Canadians over the news—delivered right after Canada Day— that the country has fallen to No. 3 in the

ranking of the world's best places to live? For seven straight years, Canada had led the United Nations' Human Development Index. Politicians, not least Jean Chrétien, have pointed to it with overween ing pride. Speech makers at chamber of commerce luncheons, teachers in their classrooms, Canadi

ans arguing with Americans, all have alluded to it. It is-waspart of the national identity~ Well, first: we lost the top spot by a micro-whisker-a measure of wealth and lifestyle so tight

that you have to go to five decimal places to tell winners from losers. The new leader of the pack, Norway, scored-out of 1-0.939. The next three, Australia, Canada and Sweden, all scored 0.936 in the published report, but the UN says it used five decimals (unpublished) for the results. In effect, we're tied for No. 2. And hey, now we can admit it: the UN never called it a measure of "the best places to live." It's a weighted average, rating life expectancy educa tion and GDP per capita. It doesn't even include

crime, or scenery. So where did Canada come up short? Not on education or life expectancy-our numbers were the same as Norway's. Mainly, it was money. Norwegians, the UN says, can buy $28,433 (U.S.) worth of goods a year on average (the measure takes purchasing power into ac count), while Canadians make do with $26,251 (U.S.). Aussies, with fewer dollars, were buoyed by education and life numbers just a tiny tick higher.

And while the methodology has changed from last year, Canada's longevity and education ratings dropped slightly while Norway's stayed the same.

Anyway, misery loves com pany. Canada's two close cousins in what has been called "Anglo-Saxon capitalism"-that is, less wel fare-oriented-both fell as well. The United States slipped by three places, Britain by four. And there's still hope. The numbers generally draw on from 1998 or 1999-one of the reasons there's been a lag in others overtaking Canada despite the social-service cuts of the mid-1990s. So here in 2001, we may already be making a comeback

Berton Woodward

THE TOP TWENTY Rank on the UN'S 2001 Human Development Index (last year's rank in brackets) 1. Norway (2) 2.Australia (4) 3. Canada (1) 4. Sweden (6) 5. BelgIum (7) 6. United States (3) 7. Iceland (5) 8. Netherlands (8) 9. Japan (9) 10. FInland (11) 11. SwItzerland (13) 12. Luxembourg (17) 13. France (12) 14. BrItain (10) 15. Denmark (15) 16.Austria (16) 17. Germany (14) 18. Ireland (18) 19. New Zealand (20) 20. Italy (19) Fewer countries are listed this year, but Sierra Leone was rated lowest both years 158. Ethiopia (171) 159. Burkina Faso (172) 160. Burundi (170) 161. NIger (173) 162. Sierra Leone (174)