Where to live in Canada

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Introduction

  • Here is a suggested strategy if you are trying to figure out where to live, but don’t know where to start.
  • There are many different individual circumstances.
  • If you’re married to a Canadian or have been living in a romantic relationship with one for over a year, you can apply for a permanent residence visa via the spousal sponsorship route.
  • If you’re aged 18 or over but under 31, you can get a 24-month working holiday work permit.
  • The list goes on.
  • This article, however, has been written with the “average” person in mind, that is, a person who is not married to a Canadian, a person who is over thirty, a person who is not fabulously wealthy, etc.

Short-list countries

  • Research countries, and draw up a short list.
  • Some of the factors you may want to consider include:
    • language -- most of Canada is English-speaking, Quebec is French-speaking, and New Brunswick is bilingual
    • tolerance
    • human rights
    • safety and security
    • transparency of the government
    • life expectancy
    • infant mortality rate
    • incarceration rate
    • quality of public services
    • economic opportunities for someone in your occupation
    • cost of living
    • climate -- most of Canada has a true four-season climate with snowy winters, except for the British Columbia coast, which has a wetter version of the UK's climate
    • friendliness of the locals
    • ease of travel to and from the UK
    • your reason for relocating (e.g., desire to integrate permanently with the local population and perhaps earn a less spectacular salary versus desire to earn a high salary, possibly at the cost of living in an American-style compound, somewhat isolated from local people)
    • history
    • culture
    • scenery
    • outdoor activities
  • In carrying out this comparison, you may want to read the BE Wiki article entitled Canada versus Australia.
    • These are by no means the only countries to which British people emigrate.
    • But the contrast between these two countries will help you to identify some factors that are worthy of consideration.
    • In addition to that, because one of them is in the southern hemisphere and the other is in the northern hemisphere, the article will alert you to southern hemisphere versus northern hemisphere issues.

Research the immigration systems...

of the countries on your short list.

Do preliminary research into jobs

  • Because a job offer is so critical to your chances of getting into Canada these days, it’s important for you to secure employment.
  • Research whether there is a more or less even demand for people in your occupation across the country or whether the demand is concentrated in a few places.

Be sceptical about economic booms

  • Take with a pinch of salt reports that a specific part of Canada is booming.
  • Booming areas may be better suited to people in some occupations than in other occupations.
  • True, a boom often creates a shortage of workers in every field you can think of.
  • But ... that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best place to live. You might wonder why, given that there are jobs aplenty. The reason is that real estate prices shoot up during the boom. They reach high levels, at least by Canadian standards.
  • Alberta, for example, is a great place for people in certain occupations -- anyone who works in the petroleum industry, people in the skilled trades (think housing boom), and some others. These occupations pay highly enough to compensate for real estate prices.
  • But there are many occupations that do not pay highly enough to compensate for the high real estate prices. To illustrate this point, it's sobering to realize that half the people in Calgary's homeless shelters have some form of employment.
  • A factor to consider if you're heading to a booming part of Canada is the amount of equity you'll be able to bring with you from the UK. This will influence the size of the deposit that you'll be able to pay for a house. That, in turn, will influence the size of the mortgage that you'll have to take out.
  • This section is not suggesting that you avoid Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton entirely. Several members of the BE forum live in those cities, and most of them seem happy there. What is being suggested is that you do your research.
  • A part of Canada that has lower real estate prices may give you a higher standard of living.

Consider lesser known regions

  • If you haven't already done so, find out about Canada's Atlantic provinces (Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island).
  • It may be worth your while to research the Nova Scotia Community Identified Stream.
  • Also find out about the prairie provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
  • If you're considering Ontario, find out the differences between Toronto and the province's smaller cities and towns.
  • If you're considering British Columbia, take a little time to find out what the province offers besides Vancouver.
  • Again, this article is not telling you to avoid Toronto and Vancouver. It's suggesting that you consider Canada all the way from east to west, and avoid a premature decision.

Between a rock and a hard spot

  • If you are dead set on a specific area that you love, but if that area has little need for people in your occupation, you face a complex choice.
  • Are you willing to switch occupations, open up a business in an entirely different field, or make some other compromise in return for the privilege of living in your desired area?
  • This is a serious decision.
  • Some expats have been successful in changing fields, opening businesses, etc., when they’ve moved to Canada.
  • On the other hand, there also are some expats who have been forced to give up their dream, because they simply have not been able to earn enough money in their chosen area.
  • There's a saying that 'you can't eat the view'. This has two parts to it, and you should consider which version applies to you; for some people, being in a beautiful location, for example waking up and being able to see across the sea to the North Shore mountains, or the Olympic ranges may not be worth it if they feel they're barely making rent, and have low economic prospects. For others, it doesn't matter how poor the economic situation, as the surrounding scenery will still be there, free, and that's more important than generating savings in an environment that makes them unhappy, for example being snow-bound for half the year. Neither of these perspectives is necessarily right or wrong - but your outlook on the issue is important to consider.

More focused research

  • Once you’ve chosen a general area to which to move, do more detailed research on that area.
  • Statistics Canada gives loads of information on different areas, population, age, average income, etc.
  • Look at the Multiple Listing Service website to get a sense of house prices in the area.
  • Use Google Maps to find out the driving time from various suburbs and satellite towns to the city centre; remember that Google's Maps' estimated times default to assuming you "depart now", which could be a very different time of day if you are in a different time zone, or looking after work. Change the setting to be based on peak hours and bear in mind that driving times in snowy conditions and in rush hour may be double the default stated times.
  • Also research public transportation options. In Canada, there tends to be a good transit infrastructure only in the larger cities. In large metropolitan areas, there are commuter trains from some, but not all, satellite towns. Generally speaking, Canada is a car-oriented country. It’s not only a question of getting to work and back. It’s also a question of buying groceries and doing other errands on weekends. But there are some cities in which it would be feasible to lead a car-less lifestyle, particularly if you lived close to the downtown core. Living close-in generally appeals to singles and childless couples. Young families usually find that there are more amenities for them in the suburbs.
  • Search the BE forum for previous threads about the metropolitan area in which you’re interested.
  • You may want to read Muchmor, a free magazine about life in Canada. It addresses immigration questions too. You also can view back issues.

Hunt for a job

  • Undertake the job hunting process described in the BE Wiki articles that address that topic.
  • Understand that there is more to this than merely finding a job.
  • A job offer, in and of itself, is insufficient to aid you with immigration purposes.
  • You need to find a job for which there are no willing and able Canadian residents if you want to use a job offer to support a work permit or Permanent Residence application.
  • At this point it might help you to re-visit the Wiki article on Labour Shortages.

Recce Trip

  • If at all possible, go on a recce trip to your desired area.
  • A recce is useful for job hunting (networking and attending interviews).
  • It’s also helpful for exploring neighbourhoods and towns, visiting schools, browsing through supermarkets, commuting to the downtown core during rush hour, and generally assessing the suitability of a place.
  • Internet research can take you only so far. Nothing beats a personal visit.

After landing in Canada

  • When you actually move to the area in question, consider renting for six months or a year.
  • This is all the more essential if you arrive without a job, and therefore don't know where you'll ultimately be working.
  • The 6 - 12 month period will gives you a chance to explore the region, figure out which areas you like, and also figure out which areas are feasible in terms of price and commuting to work.
  • After about a year, buy a house.

Your mileage may vary

  • Individual expats' situations vary.
  • The above mentioned steps and timing will suit some people more than others.
  • The article has been provided as a guideline for the person who doesn't have a clue as to where he/she wants to go, doesn't know how to initiate the process, and is looking for a starting point.