Smile wide: Kingston, Ont., named Canada’s happiest city

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew
Photo by: RunPhoto/Photodisc
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Smile wide, Kingston. You are apparently Canada's happiest city. This comes according to a Jetpac City Guides, a hipster tour group that calculated the "smile score" of all the cities in Canada.

The company found that Canada’s widest smiles come from Kingston, Ont., home to Queen’s University, a historical downtown and the country’s first capital city.

According to Jetpac, "Finding the Happiest City in Canada took doing image proicessing on over 100 million Instagram photos to count and size the smiles on people's faces from all the cities in Canada. From counting the pixels, we were able to come up with a Smile Score for each city."

In short, the wider the smile, the bigger the score. Smirks counted less than grins, grins counted less than smiles. The more teeth captured in the photo, the more points it scored.

Before we question the process (do bigger smiles really mean happier people?), here is a list of the Top 10 happiest cities:

1. Kingston
2. Regina
3. Quebec City
4. Gatineau, Que.
5. Saskatoon
6. London, Ont.
7. Waterloo-Kitchener, Ont.
8. Kelowna, B.C.
9. Edmonton
10. Banff

And, of course, the least happiest:

21. Whistler
22. Montreal
23. Toronto
24. Vancouver
25. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

So, wait? Set aside Kingston for a moment – it's a university town, and most students are too young to realize they are unhappy.

People in Saskatchewan and Quebec are the happiest in Canada? And those who live in the country's largest cities are among the unhappiest? Let's look at some previous happiness studies, shall we?

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The Centre for the Study of Living Standards once studied Statistics Canada reports to find who was most satisfied with their lives.

Montreal was ranked first, with Vancouver coming in at fifth and Toronto at seventh. Quebec City ranked sixth in the study, making it the highest repeat on both lists.

Halifax was named the happiest city in Canada by a web design company that studied one million tweets in search of words such as "glad," happy," "joy" and "pleasant." That list placed Winnipeg second, with Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver rounding out the top five.

Sadly, that study had its own issues. If, for example, someone in Winnipeg tweeted, "I would be happy if it was warmer," it would still go toward improving the city's score.

So this brings us back to Jetpac's Smile Index. Do bigger smiles mean happier people?

Ultimately, we can’t say for sure. Maybe those big smiles are hiding inner turmoil. Maybe some of those smiles were actually winces.

It could be as simple as people in big city being more reserved when it comes to smiling. As someone who has lived in Toronto, I can attest that walking down the street with a smile on your face is an invitation for trouble – everything from being labeled a mark by pickpockets to being more approachable to homeless people asking for change.

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And as someone who has lived both in Kingston and the prairies, I can attest that people are approachable and outwardly friendly, and almost none of it has anything to do with the size of their smiles.

So call it a draw? In deference to Kingston, we must consider one point: The city still has a town crier!  Chris Whyman is often spotted walking through the downtown in full costume, and that has got to be worth something.

“I’m not surprised that we’re the happiest city," Whyman told the Kingston Whig Standard. "Thinking about the things that make people smile, we’re a festival town. We’ve got all sorts of things that happen in Kingston that will make you smile. People just love this city.”

So there's that. Or, perhaps it really is the prevalence of university students. Jetpac went a step further and listed the 10 happiest places in Kingston. Would you be surprised to learn that they are, for the most part, bars, nightclubs and university hangouts?

Neither would I.

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