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Dolbeau-Mistassini – The worst cities? — Don’t be so quick to judge! — Part 2 (#158)

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In the last post, The worst cities? — Don’t be so quick to judge! — Part 1: Introduction (#157), I said we’ll take a closer look at Québec’s lowest ranked city in which to live:  Dolbeau-Mistassini.

As I said in the last post, the MoneySense ranking was based on a narrow range of statistics, and did not take into account numerous subjective factors or other points beyond their narrow range of statistics.

I’ll give you some information about the town, the region, and lots of links to allow you to judge for yourself.  From my perspective, Dolbeau-Mistassini doesn’t seem like such a bad place.  Yes, it’s a little far from Québec’s largest cities, and it is not very large (just over 14,000 people), but it seems to offer full amenities which larger communities offer, and its location makes it ideal for lovers of outdoor activities.

The region – Saguenay Lac St-Jean:


The Saguenay Lac St-Jean region is one of the most well-known regions of Québec.  If you were to ask any Québécois to list four regions of Québec which first come to mind, chances are that Saguenay Lac St-Jean would be one of them.

If you were to ask them to list four things about Saguenay Lac St-Jean which first come to mind, likely the answer would include (1) the distinct local accent, (2) blueberries, (3) the Saguenay Fjord, (4) Lac St-Jean (Lake).


The word for a “blueberry” in Canadian French is a “bleuet”.  Because Lac St-Jean is associated so deeply with blueberries in the local food and culture, people from the region are called “des bleuets”.    A word of caution if you’re learning French;  In Canada, a blueberry is a “bleuet”, but in France it is referred to as a “myrtille”.  And in reverse, a “bleuet” in France is not a “blueberry”, but rather is a “cornflower” (I’ve been misunderstood before in France for using the Canadian terminology).  🙂


From Montréal, Dolbeau-Mistassini, it is a six hour drive Northwest through the forest (via the town of La Tuque).   From Québec City, it would be a four hour drive.

Despite being quite far North, it is situated in a micro-climate region.  The entire Sagenuay Lac St-Jean region is situated in a deep valley (wide enough wide that you cannot see the walls of the valley if you’re in Dolbeau-Mistassini).  Therefore, despite being quite far North, the low altitude in the valley floor traps warmer air, and makes for fertile farmland and deciduous trees (unlike the Canadian Shield climate outside the valley).   Temperatures and climate (in both summer and winter) would be more similar to places further south such as Québec City (and sometimes even Montréal).


The square insert from the first map above is shown in the map below:


The line on the map above is an elevation cross-section which is shown below to illustrate the valley micro-climate.


The largest city in the Saguenay Lac St-Jean region is the city of Saguenay, 160,000 (one of Québec’s best known cities).  It has one of Canada’s largest airbases (with many of Canada’s CF18 fighter jets), and a diversified economy (university, aluminum production, numerous services, research & training, forestry, biomedical).


Dolbeau-Mistassini is the region’s second largest community, and is a two hour drive to the West from the city of Saguenay.

Dolbeau-Mistassini’s economy is very much as a service hub for the surrounding areas (agriculture, forestry, service centre for other smaller communities).  It also has a large paper mill (AbitiBowater).   Although the community is located slightly inland from Lac St-Jean (a lake which is so large that you cannot see across it), the community is generally associated with the lake (which offers many outdoor possibilities).

At the risk of sounding like a promotional-brochure (which isn’t my intention)… if you’re a lover of four-season outdoor sports and activities, you’d likely be in heaven in Dolbeau-Mistassini.   Water sports, forest activities, hunting, fishing, skiing, ski-dooing are found in abundance.


The fact that the town has all the major services which large centres also offer, but with much more accessibility owing to its size, could be considered a major advantage.

As you saw from the MoneySense listing, housing prices are much cheaper than other Canadian communities, and as you’ll see below, there are many housing options.

Here is a promo-video for the town:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSQ5RBIotn0

I’ve lived in many communities across Canada in five provinces (ranging in size from 250 people to agglomerations of over 10 million people, and everything in between).   That experience alone has given me the perspective to know that making friends is key to feeling at home wherever you live.  I’ve said many times before that even if I were to live in a high arctic town without trees, if I were to meet the best friends in the world there with whom I were always going out and doing things, then the community would probably be the best place in the world!

It’s for these reasons that I consider community activities and hobby/interest activities to be key to feeling you can happily make a place home.   If you live in the largest of cities, but everyone sticks to themselves and do not mix, chances are you may not enjoy it too much (believe me, I’ve been in that situation before too).  But if you live in a small community, and everyone is always mixing, engaged in community volunteer activities, and the same groups of people constantly run into each other during community events, you will likely come to feel that the community is not only is super friendly, that it is easy to make friends, but that the community becomes a default family (I’ve lived in those types of places too, big and small).

I’ve never lived in Dolbeau-Mistassini before, but the activities and community events it offers seem to be just the types of activities which are conducive to the latter positive situation I just described.

I couldn’t find much online with respect to Dolbeau Mistassini’s economic plans (tax credits, corporate property taxes or rental / purchase rates, etc.).  But I noticed there are a couple of industrial parks.  Usually centres such as this, when a little further away from larger centres, are ideal for businesses which do not rely on major population bases, or which can be conducted online (or by phone).   In this sense, such centres are perfect for lovers of outdoor activities.

Community events:

The community has Saguenay Lac St-Jean’s region’s finest performing arts theatres.   Some of Québec’s  biggest names in Québec pop-culture come to town to offer performances: http://www.comitedesspectacles.com/

The town features numerous annual events and cultural poles which offer ample opportunities for volunteer activities and opportunities to become involved in the community :

There are a ton of photos of Dolbeau-Mistassini online, but I couldn’t find many which were not copyright protected (something I wish to respect as much as possible in this blog).  Therefore, the best way to allow you to see the town yourself is likely through Google Streetview links.

Choose the parts of town you’re interested in seeing, click on the links (below), and happy touring!!

Main street, Dolbeau-Mistassini

Waterfalls & Rapids downtown :

Full service, large hospital:


Large supermarkets like any city:

Sports complex (ice arena, fitness facilities, indoor swimming pool):

Cultural centre:

Public outdoors swimming complex:

Various types of housing options, including several condo complexes (often the first choice for newly arrived immigrants or singles):

Municipal library:

Fair grounds for various annual events:

Major box stores, like any larger centre:

Older distinct regional housing styles (with two-story square balconies):

Medium aged housing districts:

Newer housing districts (many of which are waterside):

Town’s major employer (AbitibiBowater paper mill):

Local ski hill on edge of town:

Jogging paths all around town and on the water’s edge:

Scenic drive around town (cliffs & river):

Fly fishing just 3 minute drive from downtown:

City drive along the lake:

Drive along the river:

City hall: 

Salle de spectacles (performing arts centre):

Forests on the edge of the city for outdoor activities (hiking, camping, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, quading) :


All-in-all, I’d say that Dolbeau-Mistassini doesn’t look like such a bad place after all.  I’ve seen many other places across Canada which don’t have nearly as much to offer.  Ranking it at the bottom of the pile is quite harsh if you ask me.    But at the end of the day, I think you have to look at the rankings from the perspective that there is not much of a difference between communities ranked in 50th spot, 100th spot, or 200th spot.   The differences are small, and such rankings should not be held against any one town or city.   There are thousands of communities across Canada after all, and Dolbeau-Mistassini is definitely not one of the worst ones!

It goes to show you should always take such rankings with a grain of salt (if not a huge block of salt!).



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