Canada is the second-largest in the world and is a popular destination for expats and tourists alike. If you are planning to move to Canada, which area should you choose to settle down in? Let’s talk about the best provinces to live in Canada.
At the moment the country is undergoing a massive drive to encourage more people to relocate to the country. The government aims to welcome just over 400,000 new permanent residents every year for the next three years.
The government is doing its best to welcome expats with help getting visas, jobs, bank accounts and more. With so many opportunities and such a fantastic quality of life, now is the perfect time to move to Canada.
But where should you go? Canada is huge, with ten separate provinces and three individual territories. These are:
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Prince Edward Island
- Nova Scotia
- New Brunswick
- British Columbia
- Northwest Territories
- Yukon Territory
With 13 choices, you may feel overwhelmed. We’ve broken down our top five best provinces to live in Canada and why each would make the perfect place to call home.
1. British Columbia – a high standard of living
British Columbia, or BC as it’s known by locals, is the westernmost province bordering the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the best provinces to live in Canada if you are after high quality of life and don’t mind paying for it.
Like most of Canada, life here is all about the outdoors, and since it has the mildest winter weather in the whole country, it is perfect for people who want to be outside but don’t like the cold.
There’s still snow in winter, but temperatures are more manageable than elsewhere.
Vancouver is the largest city and the place most people head to. And for a good reason! Vancouver is a beautiful city right on the water with mountains behind.
Vancouver can be a bit expensive in terms of house prices, but you’ll find most corporate job opportunities here. It’s a major metropolitan hub.
Outside of Vancouver, you’ll find Victoria on Vancouver Island.
Victoria is actually the province capital, so you’ll find the city has an older, more prestigious attitude than its younger, more modern sister city. There are ferries from Vancouver straight to the island.
If you want to be close to Vancouver but stay out in nature, consider living in Victoria BC or anywhere else on Vancouver Island. There are some lovely towns there including Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Parksville, Courtenay, and Campbell River.
Other significant towns in the province include Kelowna, Kamloops and Chilliwack. Each has excellent access to the Rockies for winter sports but is metropolitan enough to have everything you need.
Education, transport and public services are well funded in BC, with good local schools and major private colleges and international schools in Vancouver.
The only real factor which could be a drawback is the living costs.
Life in BC can be pricey. The Vancouver private schools can have annual fees of CA$30,000.
You will enjoy good public services but pay for them with the high taxes.
It’s recommended that a minimum yearly salary to live more or less comfortably in Vancouver or BC for a single person is CA$50,000. For a family with children, life could get tough on less than CA$120,000.
2. Ontario – great employment opportunities
Ontario is the most popular province for people moving to Canada. The province is home to almost 15 million people and is an economic powerhouse for Canada.
Ontario’s capital Toronto is considered one of the coolest cities in the country. It’s a very diverse and lively place to live. Toronto’s distinct neighbourhoods attract young families, professionals, arty types and all other kinds of expats from all over the globe.
Toronto is often compared to New York for its blend of laid-back attitude, hardworking corporate areas, and a fun, all-night party vibe. It’s pricey, but if you want to live in a major city, Toronto is the place to be.
Outside of Toronto, you have the option of several other large towns and cities.
The most popular are Ottawa, Mississauga and London.
Each has an outstanding education system, including universities that attract internal students and excellent public transport and job opportunities.
Ottawa, the capital city of Canada is a great choice and competes with Toronto in popularity. There’s always a debate going on whether Ottawa is better than Toronto or not.
Ontario offers a lot of employment opportunities. In fact, if you don’t already have a job lined up, Ontario is an excellent place to start. Unemployment here is the lowest in the country.
Outside of work, life in Ontario is pretty amazing. There are mountains for winter sports, lakes and beaches for the summer, forests, national parks, rivers and more.
It’s an outdoor dream, an embodiment of the Canadian lifestyle. In summer, the temperatures reach over 30, meaning you get a real summer; winter is the traditional Canadian cold.
Ontario is culturally diverse and attracts international visitors, making it a great place to move if you like embracing new cultures, meeting new people and learning something new. Home to expats from all over the world, the quality of life here is incredible if you love the outdoors.
It also has the highest average income in Canada, so no wonder that so many expats end up living in Ontario.
3. Quebec – the taste of European culture
Famously the French-speaking province in Canada, Quebec offers a very different lifestyle to the rest of the country.
Aside from the language, the area is considerably more European than the other provinces, favouring a more American outlook on life.
The main difference is, of course, the language. But if you speak French or are willing to learn, Quebec offers a distinctly dynamic way of life at a slightly slower pace.
The two main cities of Montreal and Quebec don’t buzz in the same way as Toronto and Vancouver.
You’ll still find everything you need and can party all night if you want to, but it’s more likely to be in an underground bar or on your neighbour’s terrace rather than in a club.
Winter in Quebec is long and cold, but there is much more open friendliness amongst neighbours because of this.
When the weather is cold enough to kill, most people let go of petty arguments and help each other out, meaning even the big cities and towns feel like oversized villages.
If you want culture, Quebec could be perfect for you. It’s less culturally diverse than Ontario, but it’s home to many Europeans who feel more at home here.
Of course, the outdoors plays a huge part in everyone’s life, with ice hockey and skating top of the list.
The Quebec wilderness is much wilder than in Ontario so if you really want to get back to nature and don’t want to walk the same trails are everyone else, you’ll find Quebec much nicer.
Citizens in Quebec have excellent access to public and private schooling and healthcare, and there are some pretty strict rules regarding pollution to keep the wildlife safe.
Generally, life in Quebec is much cheaper than in other provinces, particularly regarding property prices.
Even though some major international universities bring in plenty of students and families, the cost of living here is pretty low.
There are plenty of job options with decent salaries, which mean Quebec often draws in people who want to live the good life on a reasonable budget.
4. Alberta – for slower and less expensive living
In the centre of Canada, you’ll find three huge, flat provinces called the Prairie provinces. Of these, Alberta is generally considered the better place to live.
Because of its vast flat expanses, Alberta has a massive farming culture. Here you’ll find harvest parties, cowboys, rodeos, concerts and lots of locally grown food and drink.
There’s a real country feeling in Alberta, which is slightly elevated by the hugely popular city of Calgary.
Calgary received vast amounts of funding when it hosted the Winter Olympics, and as such, it got excellent transport infrastructure and outstanding facilities. In particular, it’s got some pretty fabulous sports facilities.
Since it’s close to the Rockies, it attracts many skiers in winter, and the surrounding countryside is basically a giant playground all year round.
If you’re looking for work outside of Calgary, it’s mainly agricultural work that does pay well and comes with an entire community of support.
You’ll also find a fair amount of oil, gas and mining jobs.
Corporate jobs are limited to Calgary and the provincial capital Edmonton. Many people here do seasonal work choosing to work on farms in summer and in the ski resorts in the winter.
- Living In Calgary Vs Edmonton: which one should you choose?
Living in Alberta is relatively inexpensive and life is a bit slower than in other places with major cities. You’re unlikely to find the significant fashions in Alberta, but it’s a good life with one hell of a scenic backdrop.
5. Nova Scotia – the most beautiful province
If you’re looking to get away from it all and relax in some tranquillity, Nova Scotia is the best province for you.
The East-coast province has low property prices, low cost of living, clean air, minimal crime and lots of peace and quiet. For many people, it’s a dream.
Economically, fishing, trawling and hunting are the big employers here. It’s not for everyone, but if you have a modest retirement fund or can work remotely, Nova Scotia is magnificent.
Like Alberta, it’s not the most fashionable, trendy province of them all, but it offers an ideal lifestyle for people who like the outdoors, don’t want to live in a major city and can deal with the cold winters.
Halifax is the hub of the province, and even that is much calmer than other cities.
The relaxed way of life means people really enjoy connecting with the outdoors and with each other.
Winter can be challenging in rural areas, but the facilities exist to make it as easy as possible. Canadians know how to deal with the cold.
Being very rural does come with both pros and cons. There’s no need to worry if you suffer from road rage; traffic simply doesn’t exist in Nova Scotia. However, some people feel isolated during the winter months.
If you’re looking to climb the career ladder and aren’t interested in fishing, life here could be challenging. However, Nova Scotia offers a wild, rugged beauty that is unmatched and a peaceful way of life that means very few people want to leave.
What to consider when picking your province
Canada has a lot to offer. Each province really has its own distinct personality, and people are fiercely proud of where they call home.
Picking where to live is one of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make. While we’ve outlined our top picks, in the end, it is your choice.
Here are some things to consider when picking your province.
Some of Canada’s provinces have particular employers. Unless you can work remotely or aren’t planning on working at all, you seriously need to research the local job market, or you may find your only option is a job you hate.
Some places are much more straightforward than others to find employment. Your career or employability will also hugely affect your chances of getting a Canadian visa.
It sounds silly, but you should consider the weather before you go. Some provinces experience much colder winters, and they last for six months. It’s a long chunk of time to be stuck inside if you hate the cold and don’t enjoy the snow.
Some provinces have set targets for accepting expats; some offer help with visas if you work in a specific industry; others are much harder.
Depending on your work, financial situation and living plans, you may find some provinces welcome you with open arms while others are pretty strict.
Some of the more remote provinces have fewer international connections. If you plan on travelling a lot or visiting family, it’s worth checking how easy it is to fly in and out. Particularly during the winter months, some areas because very hard to access. Of course, if you don’t want visitors, this could be a good thing.
Canada’s top provinces – summary
Moving to Canada is a dream for many, including you, perhaps?
But with so much to offer and so much variety, picking the right province for you can be challenging. Canada really does have something for everyone, and with such a strong expat community, you’re sure to find some like-minded people.
We think it’s worth exploring all 13 provinces to narrow down your top choices before committing to the move. But no matter where you move to in Canada, you’re sure to love the scenery, which is truly unmatched.
You might find useful:
- Living In Canada – a detailed guide for expats on moving and settling down in Canada;
- Best Places To Live In Canada;
- Canada Visa – How To Move To Canada As A Skilled Person;
- Visit our Canada Country Guides page for more information on living in Canada.