Seasoned expats know too well that for successful relocation knowledge is the key. It’s not just about the country they are moving to, it’s also about what place exactly you are going to choose to call your home.
So, if you are planning to immigrate to Canada, one of the toughest choices will be to pick up the best place for you to live in Canada.
Some places in Canada have better opportunities than others when it comes to jobs, careers, housing and schooling, climate and leisure, and all other things so important for your day-to-day life.
Canada certainly has more plus points in its favour than it does negative issues. Therefore, if you’re a would-be emigrating expatriate actively contemplating Canada as your destination of choice, we can appreciate that you need to narrow down your search and find out where to make a new home abroad in Canada for you and your family.
The country is vast and it does represent a massive opportunity for immigrants, so using in-depth research from Money Sense, Canada’s own personal finance website, we’re going to highlight the 5 best places to live in Canada.
Why move to Canada?
Canada often ranks at the top of various lifestyle lists because it offers employment opportunities and has decent standards of healthcare and education. It’s a first-world nation with positive immigration policy, and the quality of life can be excellent for those earning a decent salary.
Middle-class Canadians can usually afford to live in detached houses. Property costs tend to be cheaper in Canada than they are in the UK, partly because the country is so vast that there is not a restriction on space. Having said that, in the most built-up areas where there is intense demand for space for business and residential real estate, of course, costs can be higher.
The one downside of Canada most often quoted is the climate. However, despite what many people think, Canada is not covered in a blanket of snow for up to 6 months of the year.
It’s a case of looking at the nation, examining weather patterns and finding a part of Canada where you believe you could cope with perhaps harsher winter weather conditions than we’re typically used to in the UK.
Two things to also remember about Canada’s winters are that the nation is fully geared up to cope with snow and ice and therefore infrastructure does not fail as it does in the UK when there’s a single snow flurry.
Secondly, life is structured around the winter weather with its snow and ice so that sports and community events, for example, embrace the conditions and make the most of the weather.
MoneySense ranking of the best places to live in Canada
MoneySense annually surveys Canadian cities and towns trying to find which city/town is prosperous but affordable, safe and easy to get around, with plenty of amenities and a thriving community, nice weather and solid employment opportunities.
The survey ranks towns and cities across the entire nation according to detailed criteria in the following categories: prosperity, housing, lifestyle, crime, health and weather.
According to the 2016 MoneySense survey of the best places to live in Canada, the following are the top 5 destinations in the nation: Ottawa, Burlington, Oakville, St. Albert and Boucherville.
Ottawa constantly ranks high for the quality of life it offers, cleanliness and the best community to live in both the Americas and in the world.
Thanks to its cultural diversity and a large number of young people attracted to the city by its two universities – University of Ottawa and Carleton University – Ottawa is a vibrant and youthful city with stunning architecture, prosperous city centre and lovely neighbourhoods.
Just under 1million people live in Ottawa and the population is expected to grow by 3% in the next 3 years.
Ottawa is very clean and green. It is also bike-friendly and has an abundance of opportunities for an active outdoor lifestyle. The beautiful Rideau Canal that cuts through the city provides numerous trails, walkways, running paths and bike lanes all the way through. In winter the canal freezes over and becomes the world’s longest skating rink.
Ottawa’s 4 distinct seasons provide a nice change of scenery throughout the year: winters are cold and fabulously bright with tons of winter activities available through the city, and summers can get quite hot and humid.
Ottawa is an officially bilingual city, and many services there are offered in both French and English. English is understood everywhere, and although learning French might benefit you in terms of integrating faster in the community or getting certain types of employment, you don’t really have to be bilingual to have a good life there.
The cost of living in Ottawa although higher than average is still quite affordable. It is possible to rent an apartment from CAN $700-1400 per month depending on your preferred location.
Dining out and groceries are a bit expensive, especially imported items. However, salaries are also above the average and local purchasing power in Ottawa is higher than in major UK cities.
Unemployment in Ottawa is relatively low and stands at 5.3%. Top occupations are information systems analysts and consultants, retail salespersons and computer programmers and interactive media developers.
Ottawa is home to Canada’s Federal government and has both provincial government offices and a municipal government as considerable employers. The public sector employs around 20% of the working population in Ottawa.
Last year the most growing areas of employment were natural and applied sciences and related; education, law and community; and management occupations.
Located in Ontario, the city of Burlington sits at the south-western end of Lake Ontario and is perhaps a perfect place for those who want big city living in close proximity to nature and the great outdoors.
Burlington maintains 580.78 hectares of parkland and boasts a quality of life second to none. Residents can enjoy some of the best hiking in the world in the local sections of the Bruce Trail and the Niagara Escarpment, which is a UNESCO-designated World Biosphere Reserve, as well as along the Waterfront Trail that skirts the northern shore of Lake Ontario.
The lifestyle available is good, with plenty of schools, colleges and healthcare facilities available to residents. What’s more, there are many attractive sights to visit and plenty going on in Burlington.
From the 115 parks, you can visit across the city to the museums, and from the many annual festivals that residents enjoy excellent and diverse shopping opportunities.
Burlington is one of the more expensive cities in the ranking. The average home costs almost $500,000, which is four and a half times the average family income. Still, this city earns high marks for low unemployment, pleasant weather, low crime, high incomes and, notably, great transit.
The city has a broad economic base, which adds to its economic stability, and it ensures there are consistently job prospects available across multiple sectors. No single employer or job sector dominates Burlington’s economy.
The leading industrial sectors, in terms of employment, are food processing, packaging, electronics, motor vehicle/transportation, business services, chemical/pharmaceutical and environmental.
Finding a job is fairly easy in Burlington. Burlington’s low unemployment rate is linked to the diverse economy of the prosperous Golden Horseshoe region.
Toronto is conveniently accessible from Burlington by commuter train which connects central Burlington to downtown Toronto. It takes one hour by train to commute. So many professionals choose to commute daily to work in Toronto and live in Burlington. This way they can afford a nicer house and a more relaxed lifestyle.
Those who prefer to work locally find employment in both farming/food production and manufacturing. Sales, business, and health care are also large employing sectors. The technology sector is growing fast as well and is becoming a bigger employer in the region.
Oakville, a lovely suburban town in southern Ontario, also boasts a brilliant location in Halton Region on Lake Ontario which gives its residents easy access to natural wonders on the one hand and to a bustling city of Toronto on the other hand.
Oakville is just 30 minutes from downtown Toronto and an hour’s drive from Niagara Falls and the United States border.
With its population just under 200,000 people, this thriving town provides all the advantages of a well-serviced urban centre, while also successfully preserving its small-town cosy feel. It deserves its place on the list of the best places to live in Canada for its outstanding catering for families and children.
There is plenty to do for those who love arts, culture and music from performances at the local Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts to museum and galleries, to fantastic festivals including Oakville’s annual Waterfront Festival, Festival of Classics and Jazz Festival.
The community also provides plenty of recreational opportunities. Golfers can play at one of seven golf courses, including PGA-recognized Glen Abbey Golf Course, which has hosted the Canadian Open for many years.
There are over 2,400 acres of park space, many with groomed hiking trails. For boaters, Oakville features two picturesque harbours with docks and slips for sail and powerboats.
Oakville is a base for Siemens and The Ford Motor Company head Canadian offices. Many Oakville residents work in advanced manufacturing at large facilities operated by UTC Aerospace Systems and General Electric.
Oakville is a popular location for the life science companies, specialising mainly in pharmaceuticals and eldercare.
However, just like Burlington, Oakville is a Toronto suburb and many residents commute to work in Toronto where employment opportunities are numerous and diverse.
Alberta has been climbing up the list of the best places to live in Canada for several years in a row. With its strong economy and abundance of high-paying jobs, it is attracting more Canadians and immigrants than ever as people are starting to discover there is more to Alberta than the oilsands.
St. Albert stands out of all Alberta communities as one of the top-ranking places to live in Canada.
In 2014 St. Albert earned the top spot on the annual Best Places to Live in Canada list in a small town category. Two years later it is still the best small town to live in Canada.
It has all the amenities such as schools, health care and recreational facilities, and also boasts several parks and facilities to promote a healthy lifestyle. St. Albert has ample green space, an abundance of outdoor rinks and more than 85 km of bike trails along the Sturgeon River.
It is also home to an International Children’s Festival that draws 55,000 people every year.
Crime rates are steadily falling, and while winters there can be really cold (averaging 28 days a year with a minimum temperature below -20˚C), there’s plenty of sunshine all year round.
St. Albert is located just 30 km away from Edmonton – the regional capital – and is a preferred place for those who choose a more relaxed pace of life.
The St Albert Transit system offers a commuter service to Edmonton.
St. Albert has an active and skilled labour force, with a low unemployment rate of 4.3%, and incomes are among the highest in the country.
Although in general. St. Albert has a much lower exposure to the oil and gas sector, it cannot totally escape the trend of the region. Plus St.Albert is a great commuter place for Edmonton.
Edmonton is a major oil and gas centre with the largest industry being petrochemicals. The region is rich in oil and natural gas, which has given Edmonton the title of “Oil Capital of Canada”. So many residents of St. Albert who commute to Edmonton work in oil-related industries.
However, Edmonton benefits from a wide range of other employment sectors. There are significant opportunities in information technology, banking and biotechnology; employers include Afexa Life Sciences, BioWare, IBM, Intuit Canada, Canadian Western Bank, Telus, General Electric, Stantec and TD Canada Trust.
The service-producing sector is still gaining jobs with 33,000 new service jobs created since in the 12 months to July 2016.
Boucherville is one of the oldest municipalities in Québec with a community of around 43,000 just outside Montreal.
In the MoneySense survey of the best places to live in Canada Boucherville scores high in almost every category, such as income, affordable housing and population growth.
The city’s median household income is $92,253, its unemployment rate sits at 2.88 per cent and its population growth is high, its bike-friendly streets and a strong arts and sports community are also remarkable.
The great outdoors is definitely a big feature in Boucherville. The Iles-de-Boucherville National Park is one of the most pleasant parks in Canada which offers snow hiking, volleyball on sand, sea kayaking, wildlife viewing, biking and more.
It’s a perfect location for a family who loves outdoor activities, golf, nature and beautiful scenery while still needs amenities of a big city at hand.
Boucherville residents are mostly French-speaking – about 90% of the population speak French while only 2% can speak fluent English. Therefore knowing French is an important factor if you want to move to Boucherville. From the point of view of employment those who are bilingual get better chances to be employed.
The city has a very low unemployment rate and employees receive relatively good salaries.
Boucherville’s industrial park is home to around 575 businesses which now provide employment to 23 000 people. Boucherville is also a base for the head office of Rona, a Canadian distributor and retailer in hardware, home improvement and gardening products.
Boucherville is just 18 km away from Montreal, Canada’s second-biggest city, after Toronto. It is common for many Boucherville residents to commute to work in Montreal.
Common areas of employment in Montreal are aerospace, software, electronics, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and transportation.
The city is one of the largest aerospace centres in North America; over 40,000 people are employed in Quebec’s aerospace industry at companies like Bell Helicopter Textron, Bombardier Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, and CAE.
Other big employers in Montreal are business services, manufacturing and retail and the Port of Montreal. The headquarters of the Canadian National Railway are also based there.
Final say, best places to live in Canada
It’s not difficult to see why Canada is such an exceptionally popular choice with would-be expatriates. The country is ripe with opportunities and a lifestyle it offers is pretty good.
The only real ‘problem’ with Canada is that it’s such a vast nation that you have to spend time researching the different provinces to find an area where you would be comfortable living there.
There are so many excellent cities, towns and communities to choose from that it can be hard to narrow your search down to just one!
Check out why Victoria BC can be the right place for you: read 10 Top Reasons That Make Living in Victoria BC Amazing.
We hope the above list of the best places to live in Canada has introduced you to some of the most promising lifestyle destinations in this fabulous nation, and perhaps your next step should be visiting parts of Canada where you feel you could make a new home abroad.
When you are ready and have identified your favourite spot in Canada, our Living in Canada – a Complete How-To Guide will help you plan a successful move to Canada.