Where to Live for Expats in Canada

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: December 2013

Finding the right place to live in Canada depends on many factors. There are practical considerations such as purchase and rental prices, the cost of living and availability of local amenities. Then there are emotional criteria, such as the desirability of a place – whether what you desire is happiness, safety, friendly locals or an active social life.

In Canada as in most countries, immigrants are predominantly attracted to the three largest cities of Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver.  More than 60% of all newly-arrived expats make their homes in these conurbations. However, more and more expats are settling in the smaller cities.

Ontario is the most populous province, and many expats live there. Ottawa, Canada’s bilingual capital, is expanding and has good employment opportunities, many cultural buildings and events and a high quality of life. The provincial capital of Ontario, Toronto, is the largest city in Canada and one of the most desirable to live in, thanks partly to recent renovations. Though nearly half the city’s population was born abroad, ethnic tensions are negligible, so Toronto can be seen as a truly multicultural city. The cost of living is higher than the national average, as are property prices, which average around C$480,000.

Quebec stands apart from the rest of Canada, as it is a francophone area with French customs. The province presents an excellent opportunity to improve or perfect your French, while experiencing life with a Gallic twist. Quebec is cheaper than parts of Canada further west. Prices in Montréal, Canada’s second largest city, are considerably lower than those in Toronto and Vancouver. Average property prices are around C$330,000, which is below the national average.

British Columbia is another very popular area for expats, especially the south-east, which has a temperate, maritime climate. Vancouver, the largest city, is known for its friendly people and easy access to both skiing resorts and beaches. It has regularly been voted as one of the best places to live in the world. This desirability has led to Vancouver generally being ranked as the most expensive city in Canada. Property prices average around C$680,000.

The Prairie provinces are increasingly attracting the attention of expats. Alberta is a fast-growing province with a booming oil and gas industry and plenty of job opportunities. The centre of all this development is Calgary, Alberta largest city. House prices here are a little higher than average, at C$420,000. Those with experience in the agricultural sector might want to consider Winnipeg, a family-friendly city in Manitoba, which has a cost of living lower than all the the surrounding regions.

The Atlantic provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador are full of character and beautiful, rugged scenery. They are also where the cheapest property in Canada can be found. Average house prices are around or below C$200,000, and the overall cost of living is also considerably lower than the national average. The winters are cold, but not ferociously so as they are in the Prairies. For example, Halifax in Nova Scotia averages -4°C in January. The largest city in these provinces is Halifax, which has some fine architecture and is more vibrant than elsewhere in these more rural provinces.

Very few expats settle in the vast wilderness of the Territories, as the climate is extremely cold and there are few job opportunities, though some are available in mining and logistics.



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