They came for the jobs, but two transplanted young professionals say that's not the only thing that's keeping them in Winnipeg.
Dale Hughes, a 34-year-old architectural designer who moved here four months ago from Calgary, and Beth Phillips, a 27-year-old structural engineer who arrived last year from Vancouver, said they're also impressed with the city's thriving arts and entertainment community, its affordable housing and abundance of nearby lakes and beaches.
It's not surprising they'd feel that way because those are some of the areas where Winnipeg scored the highest in a newly released report on the best Canadian cities for young professionals to live and work in.
New Generation Consulting, a Wisconsin-based market research firm that studies the likes and dislikes of professionals between the ages of 20 and 40, rated 27 Canadian cities in seven key areas. They included earning (things like employment opportunities and household incomes), cost of lifestyle (the cost of food, clothing and housing), vitality (air and water quality and green space) and after hours (things to do during week nights and on the weekend).
It ranked Winnipeg 11th on a list of 27 cities with a population of 100,000 or more.
Victoria topped the list, with Ottawa and Vancouver coming second and third. There were a few surprises, with cities such as Kingston, Ont. (4), Halifax (5) and Thunder Bay, Ont. (13) ranking ahead of Montreal (16).
Peter Moorhouse, a senior researcher with New Generation Consulting, said the thing that impresses him about Winnipeg is "the balance" it offers to young professionals.
He said the city scored really high in one category -- cost of lifestyle -- above or near average in five others, and poor in only one -- after hours.
"So to have pretty decent ratings in most of them and have one that really stands out -- that's a pretty good place for Winnipeg to be," he added.
A spokeswoman for Destination Winnipeg said an 11th-place ranking proves a city doesn't have to be big like Vancouver or Toronto to attract young professionals.
Connie Tamoto said she expected Winnipeg to score well in categories such as cost of living and the vitality of the city. But she also expected a good score in the after-hours category.
"I'm a mid-30s person, and I never run out of things to do here," she said.
Hughes and Phillips said they've also been impressed with Winnipeg arts, theatre and festival offerings. And Hughes said his wife loves having so many lakes and beaches nearby.
Phillips said she'd heard that Winnipeg has high crime and poverty rates, and was not a fun place to live.
"But that's completely wrong," she said, "and I work very hard at convincing other people of that."
Phillips, who works for Wardrop Engineering, said the cold winters and mosquitos -- two other common knocks on Winnipeg -- also don't bother her.
In fact, she so enamoured with the city and her job that she plans to buy a home and plant some roots.
Hughes said he hasn't been here long enough to decide if Winnipeg is where he wants to make his permanent home.
But the one thing that could keep him here is his job with Prairie Architects Inc.
"They're very socially concerned, environmentally conscious and produce a quality building design," he said.
"Those three things are really something I couldn't find anywhere else."
27 cities that made the cut
Here is how the 27 Canadian cities with populations of more than 100,000 were ranked:
1. Victoria, B.C.
4. Kingston, Ont.
9. London, Ont.
11. Winnipeg, Manitoba
13. Thunder Bay, Ont.
14. St. Catharines-Niagara, Ont.
15. Saint John, N.B.
17. Kitchener, Ont.
18. St. John's, N.L.
19. Quebec City
21. Sherbrooke, Que.
22. Sudbury, Ont.
23. Oshawa, Ont.
24. Windsor, Ont.
25. Abbotsford, B.C.
26. Trois-Rivieres, Que.
27. Saguenay, Que.
-- Source: Next Generation Consulting
How they were judged
The next generation evaluated each city based on these seven indexes:
1. Vitality -- Tallies a city's air and water quality, measures green space, and estimates residents' overall health (e.g. obesity, life expectancy, etc.).
2. Earning -- Measures a city's future job growth, the diversity of employment opportunities, the percentage of jobs in the knowledge-based sector, average household income and more.
3. Learning -- Tallies educational opportunities and expenditures, public library use, Wi-Fi hot spots and more.
4. Social capital -- This index accounts for how open, safe and accessible a city is to all people.
It includes measures of diversity, crime rates, voter-participation rates and the percentage of women- and minority-owned businesses.
5. Cost of lifestyle -- This index includes variables in the national cost of
living index, which encapsulates a roof over the head, food on the table, clothes on the back and a warm bed at night.
6. After hours -- Counts the places to go and things to do after work and on weekends.
7. Around town -- Measures a city's "walkability," airport activity, commute times and mass transit opportunities.