‘Worst in the world’: All the rankings in which Canada is now last

Most unaffordable housing, highest cellphone bills and worst rate of acute care beds, to name a few

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If you spend any time on social media, it’s likely that you’ve seen this graphic compiled by columnist Stephen Lautens that assembles 11 international indices which feature Canada near the top spot. “Canada is broken? I don’t think so. Neither does the world,” reads a caption.

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Naturally, it only tells a partial picture. While Canada may dominate abstract indices such as “quality of life” and “peace,” there are plenty of far more empirical indicators in which we measurably rank as among the worst in the developed world.

There’s plenty to like about Canada, but below is a not-at-all comprehensive list of all the ways in which we are indeed very broken.

We have the most unaffordable housing in the OECD

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is essentially a club of the world’s 38 most developed countries. And when these 38 are ranked against each other for housing unaffordability, Canada emerges as the clear champion. OECD analysts rank affordability by comparing average home prices to average incomes, and according to their latest quarterly rankings Canada was No. 1 for salaries that were most out of whack with the cost of a home.

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Housing by price to income ratio for the second quarter of 2022. That’s Canada on the extreme right.
Housing by price to income ratio for the second quarter of 2022. That’s Canada on the extreme right. Photo by OECD

We have the world’s most expensive wireless costs

Every year, the Finnish telecom analyst Rewheel ranks the world’s most expensive countries for wireless services. And last year, Canada once again dominated. Across several metrics, Canada was found to be the most expensive place in the world for mobile data. Analysts found that it would cost the average Canadian the equivalent of at least 100 Euros to obtain a cell phone plan with at least 100 gigabytes of mobile data. Across much of the EU, that kind of cell phone plan could be had for less than 40 Euros.

Canadian telecoms charge more than 10 times as much for 100 gigabytes of mobile data as companies in France or Ireland.
Canadian telecoms charge more than 10 times as much for 100 gigabytes of mobile data as companies in France or Ireland. Photo by Rewheel

We have the lowest rate of acute care beds among peer countries

Canada’s health system was particularly walloped by COVID-19 due to the simple fact that most of our hospitals are at the breaking point even in good times. Multiple times during the pandemic, provinces were forced into shutdown by rates of COVID that had barely been noticed in better-prepared countries. A ranking by the Canadian Institute for Health Information provides one clue as to why. When ranked against peer countries, Canada’s rate of per-capita acute care beds was in last place, albeit tied with Sweden. Canada has two acute care beds for every 1,000 people, against 3.1 in France and six in Germany.

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Two of the planet’s “bubbliest” real estate markets are in Canada

For at least 15 years now, Canada has been a regular contender on rankings of overheated housing markets. And the latest UBS index of world cities with “bubbly” real estate markets is no exception. In their 2021 index, Toronto was second only to Frankfurt in terms of bubble risk, while Vancouver ranked sixth. Aside from Germany, Canada was the only country that saw two of its cities in the top ten.

Only two cities in the entire Western Hemisphere qualified as likely “bubble risks,” and they’re both in Canada.
Only two cities in the entire Western Hemisphere qualified as likely “bubble risks,” and they’re both in Canada. Photo by UBS Global Real Estate Bubble Index 2021

We racked up COVID debt faster than anyone else

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in the most feverish global accumulation of debt in the history of human civilization. So it’s rather remarkable that amidst this international monsoon of debt, Canada still managed to out-debt everyone else. Last year, analysts at Bloomberg tracked each country’s rate of public and private debt accumulated during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada came in with an overall debt burden equivalent to 352 per cent of GDP. While a handful of countries (Japan, France and Hong Kong) came out of the pandemic with higher overall debt burdens, Canada outranked all of them when it came to how quickly that debt had been accumulated.

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Containers on rail cars waiting to be shipped east by rail at the Port of Vancouver Tuesday, June 21, 2022.
Containers on rail cars waiting to be shipped east by rail at the Port of Vancouver Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Photo by (Photo by Jason Payne/ PNG)

The Port of Vancouver is (almost) the most inefficient in the world

Last year — just as the global supply chain crisis got going — the World Bank decided to rank the performance of the world’s 370 major ports. Authors weighed factors such as how long the ports kept ships waiting, and how long crews took to unload a vessel. And when everything was added together, the Port of Vancouver ranked 368 out of 370. The only places with worse scores were the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach. And it’s not like our other ports are much better. If Vancouver is too gummed up, you can always sail north to Prince Rupert, which ranks 339 out of 370.

Take that, Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Take that, Los Angeles and Long Beach. Photo by World Bank Group
Queues at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Queues at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Photo by Peter J. Thompson/National Post

Toronto Pearson is the world’s most-delayed airport

Flight delays are another category in which basically the entire world is feeling the pinch. And yet, Canada still managed to outdo all of them. Last month, CNN used data from the website FlightAware to figure out which airports were seeing the highest rates of flight delays. In the number one spot was Toronto Pearson, with 52 per cent of all flights out of the airport experiencing some kind of delay. And it was a commanding lead; the second-place finisher, Frankfurt, only managed to see 45.4 per cent of its flights delayed. Toronto was also a contender in flight cancellations; with 6.9 per cent of its scheduled flights never getting off the ground, it ranked fourth worst in the world.

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We’re one of the world’s worst economies for foreign investment

A 2020 study out of the University of Calgary tracked foreign investment flows into a cross-section of developed countries between 2015 and 2019. Virtually every country on the list saw a surge in foreign cash during that period; Ireland topped out the ranking thanks to its foreign investment climbing by more than 115 per cent. Only four countries actually saw a reduction in foreign investment: Mexico, Brazil, Australia and Canada. A report by the Business Council of Canada noticed the same trend. “Canada is the second-worst in the OECD on openness to foreign direct investment,” it concluded.

That’s Canada to the left.
That’s Canada to the left. Photo by University of Calgary School of Public Policy Publications

We drive the most fuel-inefficient vehicles in the world

In 2019, the International Energy Agency examined the fuel economy of the world’s private car fleets. On almost every measure, Canada led the pack in driving unnecessarily huge, gas-guzzling vehicles. Per kilometre driven, the average Canadian burned more fuel and emitted more carbon dioxide than anyone else. Canadian cars were also the largest and (second only to the U.S.) the heaviest. While it would be convenient to blame this on Canada being a sparse, cold country with lots of heavy industry, our ranking was well beyond plenty of other countries where that was similarly the case.

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