Why Canada?

By Peter O’Neil, Postmedia News Europe Correspondent

Canada gets high score on quality of life index study

PARIS — Canadians have a “better life” than anyone in the western world except — by a narrow margin — Australians, according to a new analysis released Tuesday. Canada scored at or near the top in such areas as housing, education, health and life satisfaction, among 34 major industrialized countries. Sweden ranked third among the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; the U.S. was seventh; and Turkey was a distant last.

The Better Life Initiative survey marked a major attempt by the Paris-based OECD, an economic and social policy think-tank funded by its members, to provide a broader measure of a country’s success than gross domestic product figures.

“People around the world have wanted to go beyond GDP for some time,” OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria said in a statement.

“This index is designed for them. It has extraordinary potential to help us deliver better policies for better lives.”

The index compares the 34 countries in 11 areas — housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, governance, health, life satisfaction, safety and work-life balance. Canada ranked first in terms of access to affordable housing, second on “life satisfaction,” and third on three categories — safety, health and education.

Canada’s worst score was in the area of governance, where it was near the middle of the pack.

While 67% of Canadians trust their political institutions, well above the OECD average of 56%, voter turnout in national elections was around 60% — well below the 72% average. The report, in a commentary on government transparency, noted that Canadians can’t use the Internet or telephone to get information under Canada’s access-to-information laws.

“In addition, there are no provisions for anonymity or protection from retaliation.”

In its breakout analysis for Canada, the OECD tossed in a poll result from 2008 that wasn’t considered in Canada’s overall ranking but may, according to an official, help explain why many in the country have “better lives.”

Roughly two-thirds of Canadians, or 66%, “reported having helped a stranger in the last month, the highest figure in the OECD” and well above the average of 46%.

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