Regions of Canada

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Canada's Size

Canada is a vast country covering six time zones. It differs a great deal from region to region. There also are differences amongst cities, towns, rural areas and wilderness areas. This article is intended to provide a broad brushstrokes description of Canada's regions.

Atlantic Provinces

  • The phrase "Atlantic provinces" refers to the three Maritime provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • The Atlantic provinces have beautiful scenery and super friendly people.
  • Real estate prices are lower than in much of the rest of Canada, but wages tend to be lower too.
  • One of the attractions of this region, from the point of view of a British expat, is that it is the part of Canada that is closest to the UK (hence flights are shorter, etc.).

Quebec

  • A great place with a good quality of life, but you pretty much need to be fluent in French to work there.
  • The BE Wiki article on Montréal covers several aspects of life in Quebec.

Ontario

  • A huge province with everything from a large metropolitan area in and around Toronto to smaller cities and towns, rural areas, and downright wilderness.
  • There are a lot of jobs in and around Toronto, but this also is the area for which the vast majority of immigrants head, so there is competition for those jobs.
  • Toronto is a vibrantly multi-cultural city.
  • You also can find quieter areas in Southern Ontario, e.g., in the Quinte Region around Belleville.
  • Ontario is "in between" the Atlantic provinces and the western provinces, literally and figuratively. That is, it's "in between" in terms of real estate prices and "in between" in terms of friendliness.
  • Some people complain that the provincial government has a "nanny state" mentality.

Prairie Provinces

  • Technically they are Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
  • The term "technically" is used as a caveat because the oil boom in Alberta has caused that province to pull away from the rest in economic terms. There are tremendous job opportunities in some fields in Alberta. But, by the same token, real estate prices in Alberta have really shot up during the last couple of years.
  • In addition, Alberta tends to market itself internationally with heavy reliance on the Rocky Mountains, featuring stunning views such as Banff and Jasper National Parks, Waterton Lakes, and the Kananaskis Country. These tourist magnets are undeniably a match to the scenery of BC, but account for only a tiny fraction of Alberta's land area and population, both of which are primarily prairie.
  • While Saskatchewan real estate still is a bargain by comparison with Alberta real estate, Saskatchewan is experiencing something of a spill over effect. Real estate prices there are rising too, it's becoming harder to find skilled tradespeople to do renovations on your house, and so on.
  • The prairie provinces get cold winters, although in Southern Alberta (around Calgary and Lethbridge) periodic Chinook winds provide a break from the cold.
  • The prairie provinces are very sparsely populated compared with the area around Toronto.
  • People in Manitoba and Saskatchewan tend to be friendly.
  • You can find nice people wherever you go, but those who have lived in Calgary for a long time and knew it before the recent oil boom say that people are more rushed than they used to be.
  • From a scenery point of view, the western edge of Alberta is home to the Rocky Mountains (think beautiful scenery, skiing and hiking).

British Columbia

  • Contains a huge variety, both in terms of climate and scenery.
  • The coast has a climate something like that of the UK -- mild but wet winters (wetter than the UK).
  • East of the Coast Mountain Range, you get into more of a four-season climate, like the rest of Canada.
  • From a scenery point of view, you can find almost everything -- ocean, temperate rainforests, mountains, alpine forests, plateaux, and even a desert.
  • BC has a large city in the form of Vancouver, smaller cities and towns, like Victoria, Kamloops and Kelowna, tiny towns, rural areas, and vast wilderness spaces.
  • BC seems to be experiencing a building boom, not least because of the 2010 Winter Olympics that will be hosted by Vancouver and Whistler.
  • Vancouver is situated in a lovely spot, but one downside of it is that its real estate prices are very high.
  • Real estate in other parts of BC tends to be more reasonably priced than Vancouver, but still more expensive compared with equivalent areas in the Atlantic provinces.

Far North

  • Canada's far north is comprised of Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.
  • This is a huge and sparsely populated region. When people say that Town X is three hours from Town Y, they mean three hours of flying, not three hours of driving.
  • The Wiki article on Whitehorse will give you some sense of what it's like to live in far norther towns like Whitehorse and Yellowknife.

Cities

  • Canada's most cosmopolitan megacities are Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. They are great cities in their own ways, and around 2/3 of all immigrants to Canada move to these multi-million inhabitant centres.
  • But, depending on what you want out of life (and depending on job opportunities), you might consider other cities like Halifax, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Quebec City, and Victoria.
  • You also might consider medium-sized cities like Moncton, Fredericton, London (Ontario), Red Deer, Lethbridge, Kelowna , Kamloops, Saskatoon, Regina, or Fort McMurray.
  • Or even towns like Prince Rupert, Grande Prairie, Brandon, Sherbrooke, Thunder Bay, Trois-Rivieres, St John's.
  • It really depends what you want (job opportunities, cultural amenities, proximity to wilderness areas, etc.).