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Deciding where to settle down

Canada is a land of diversity, both in terms of culture and climate.

From temperate areas in the south to subarctic conditions in the north, snowfall and sunshine rates are something to consider when thinking about relocating here. Over in the east of the country, Quebec holds on to its French roots, while in the west, even in cities of English heritage, there is an abundance of different ethnic backgrounds. Made up of thirteen distinct provinces and territories, Canada is a country that has long had a policy of welcoming skilled immigrants from around the world in order to grow its workforce and enrich its identity.

Canada spans over 3,000 miles with the main urban, industrial, and financial settlements situated in the south of the country. Heading north, the land becomes more inhospitable and there are few, if any, major highways. Each of the major cities has its own particular character.

Montreal

Located in the culturally distinct province of Quebec, Montreal is the second largest French-speaking city in the world, behind Paris. It is home to Canada’s largest inland port, an important gateway for goods in and out of the region.

Diverse in terms of music, culture, and food, it is home to a Chinatown, a Little Italy and a Little Portugal. French is the predominant language with 91% of the population speaking it in some form and 36% claiming it as their first language. A good command of French is recommended for anyone thinking of relocating to Quebec.

Climate:

  • Warm, humid summers and very cold winters but generally changeable all year.
  • Snow depths greater than 1cm for about 109 days a year but this can be up to 18cm in February (although thankfully the city has an extremely efficient snow clearance system).
  • Winter temperatures vary between -6 o and 16 o C.
  • Summers tend to be sunny with some hot days. Temperatures can vary between 16 and 26 o C.

Employment:

  • Important industries include: aerospace, software, electronics, pharmaceuticals, transportation, business services, manufacturing, and retail.
  • Home to Canada’s French language film, television, and radio production.
  • Education – the city has more universities and schools per capita than anywhere else in the country.
  • Average income is a little lower than the Canadian average.
  • Employment rate is higher than both the Canadian average and that of Quebec.
  • Anyone working with the public is required by law to have a competent use of French but many employers seek to hire people who can speak English too.

Where to live:

  • Worth researching where the Anglophone and Francophone areas are before relocating but there are some excellent neighbourhoods throughout the city.
  • Property prices are a little higher than the provincial average but lower than Canada as a whole.
  • Cheaper than London and New York, and cheaper than Toronto and Vancouver.

Toronto

“The fact that over 50 per cent of the residents from Toronto are not from Canada, that is always a good thing, creatively, and for food especially. That is easily a city’s biggest strength, and it is Toronto’s unique strength,” chef and author Anthony Bourdain.

Toronto’s motto, ‘Diversity Our Strength’, is reflected in the fact that Toronto is home to a wide range of cultures, language, food and arts. It is Canada’s largest city and, including the Greater Toronto Area, represents the fifth largest urban area in North America.

Well-known for its vibrant nightlife, art, and good food, Toronto is home to six opera companies and two symphony orchestras and is not far from Canada’s Wonderland, one of the country’s best known amusement parks.

Climate:

  • Warm, humid summers and cold winters.
  • Snowy season is between December and mid-March with a good covering of over 1cm for 65 days a year on average, although this can be as much as 7cm in January and February.
  • Average winter temperatures range between a very cold -1 and -7 o C in January.
  • Average summer temperatures range between 18 and 26 o C or above and there is an abundance of warm, sunny days.
  • Occasionally the humidity from the lakes and the industrial districts can cause smog, a problem in the summer.

Employment:

  • Toronto is Canada’s banking and financial capital.
  • French is the predominant language with 91% of the population speaking it in some form and 36% claiming it as their first language.
  • Manufacturing and construction are also major players.
  • The University of Toronto is ranked 22nd in the world (2018.)

Where to live:

  • Downtown and its smart, modern condo culture is well suited to single men and women.
  • Some areas within the city and to the east have higher crime rates – it’s worth doing some research.
  • Overall crime rates are low in comparison with the rest of Canada but similar to Calgary and Ottawa.
  • The suburbs offer a more relaxed environment, with excellent links into the city, and are popular with families.
  • Cheaper than London and New York but more expensive than Calgary and Montreal.

Calgary

Alberta, Canada’s fastest-growing city, sits more than 1km above sea level. Located on a prairie with a cool, dry, windy, sunny climate and just a one hour drive from the Rocky Mountains, it is also just three hours’ drive from the U.S. border.

One of the world’s cleanest and most liveable cities, it is one of Canada’s wealthiest. It has North America’s first wind-powered public transport system and a unique set of covered, heated, elevated walkways called +15 between buildings downtown, allowing pedestrians to get around by foot, whatever the weather.

Climate:

  • Summers are warm and dry with temperatures in the low to mid 20s, sometimes as high as 30 o C.
  • Winters are typically clear with lows reaching below -30 o C but can reach as high as 10 o C above freezing. Cold spells are generally less than a week.
  • Fall comes in September with first snows soon after but the snow rarely settles until November.
  • Precipitation is highest in spring with snow dumps usually in May, but the cold weather doesn’t last for long.
  • The famous ‘Chinook’ is a mild westerly wind that brings a balmy atmosphere to the city several times each winter.

Employment:

  • Centre of Canada’s oil industry.
  • It has a lower unemployment rate than the rest of Canada.
  • Specialist skills in oil and gas are in demand.

Where to live:

  • House prices are affordable compared with Vancouver but almost as expensive as Toronto.
  • The residential areas to the northwest and southwest have beautiful mountain views of the Rockies.
  • The northeast is near the airport.
  • The industrial areas are more towards the southeast.

Vancouver

As ethnically diverse as the rest of Canada, 52% of Vancouver’s residents don’t speak English as their first language and this is reflected in the wide variety of food and culture on offer. It is just a 45-minute drive from the U.S. border and a 2 ½ hour drive from Seattle.

With more clement weather than most of Canada’s other cities, and the ocean, mountains, rivers, lakes, and beaches on the doorstep, it’s no wonder that the area is well-known for its golf, sailing, hiking, canoeing, skiing, and snowboarding opportunities. Vancouver is also home to six professional sports teams. The city hosts a Fringe Festival, is home to the impressive Vancouver Museum, and is also a centre for Canadian music.

Climate:

  • Unusual for Canada, Vancouver has relatively mild winters with little snow. Winters are foggy and wet.
  • Great seasons – unlike the rest of Canada, where there is little transition between summer and winter, Vancouver experiences a proper spring and fall. It is also less windy.
  • Very changeable winter and summer.
  • Average temperatures between 11 and 19 o C in summer (June) and between 1 and 6 o C in winter (December, January).

Employment:

  • One of Canada’s most prosperous economies.
  • Home to a major port.
  • Other growth industries include: finance, software, biotechnology, alternative fuels, and technology.

Where to live:

  • More expensive than the other major Canadian cities.
  • Best areas are downtown, the west of downtown, and over the bridge to North Shore.
  • Higher crime rates in downtown’s east side. This area is run-down with some of the worst drug problem and homeless rates in Canada.
  • Moving further out, areas like Burnaby are cheaper.
  • Renting is often a more affordable option.
  • Prices for renting and buying are cheaper than London and New York but more expensive than Toronto, Montreal, and Calgary.

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