Each year I help over 500 clients file their Canadian and US tax returns as well as plan for both their Canadian and US investment accounts. I also regularly help new US clients plan for their move to Canada.
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Quality of life and standards of living in Canada are based on a variety of factors, including cost of living, employment, education, health, and housing. Here are some of Canada’s best cities in which to live in 2020:
It’s often said that Canada’s capital, Ottawa, offers the highest standard of living in the nation, and it also frequently ranks among Canada’s top ten cities for retirement. As of 2013, it was named Canada’s “most highly-educated” city based on percentage of the population with a Bachelor’s degree or higher (31.5%). In Numbeo’s 2017 Quality of Life Index, Ottawa ranks 24th worldwide and 2nd in Canada, behind only Victoria, B.C. Predictably, Ottawa’s largest employer is the Federal government, and it has also become a prominent tech city: as of 2015, over 1,800 companies were based in Ottawa and employed over 63,000 people, earning it the nickname “Silicon Valley North,” similar to Vancouver’s nickname of “Hollywood North” for its film production.
Ottawa has a quality-of-life index of 178.8, as well as a low pollution index and very high purchasing power. The Ottawa-Gatineau region ranks 3rd in income among all major Canadian cities, and the city was also ranked “the best community in Canada to live in” by MoneySense for three consecutive years.
Victoria, British Columbia
In quality of life, Victoria, B.C. is the highest-ranking city in Canada and the 4th-highest in the world. The city has also ranked among the “15 friendliest cities in the world” and was named Canada’s “most romantic city” for five consecutive years. Today, Victoria is known for its booming technology sector: the city is home to nearly 900 tech companies which directly employ over 15,000 people, and these companies generate over $3 billion per year in revenue. While Victoria’s cost-of-living index is only moderate, the city still maintains high purchasing power, a high safety index, and a low property price-to-income ratio.
In 2015, Victoria was also ranked Canada’s best city to be a woman for having one of the country’s slimmest gender wage-gaps, as well as a high proportion of employees in the public sector, which is well-regarded for its transparency in terms of pay and promotions.
Home to over 2.8 million people and over 200 ethnic origins, Toronto is the most populous and arguably most multicultural city in Canada. According to Numbeo, Toronto ranks 44th worldwide and 6th in Canada for quality of life, and a 2016 study from PricewaterhouseCoopers ranked Toronto as the 3rd-best metro area in the world to live and work. The study, called “Cities of Opportunity,” also ranked Toronto 1st in quality of life and in the top five in innovation, health, safety and security, and ease of doing business.
For business, Forbes has ranked Toronto among the world’s top ten “Most Economically Powerful Cities.” It is home to Canada’s largest concentration of private information technology (IT) companies and the 3rd-largest in North America, behind New York City and San Francisco, and the Toronto area now produces more than 50% of all of Canada’s manufactured products.
Located in southern Ontario west of Hamilton, Kitchener and its metro area – known as the “Tri-Cities” with Waterloo and Cambridge – are home to nearly 524,000 people, making it Ontario’s fourth-largest metro area and 10th among all of Canada’s Census Metropolitan Areas. The city provides a variety of recreational opportunities, including over 400 parks and playgrounds, fourteen community centers, and an entertainment complex known as “the Aud,” as well as two major universities and two major hospitals.
Kitchener has a quality-of-life index of 159.1 and is known for its reasonable costs of living and a low property price-to-income ratio. It also ranks 3rd out of 33 cities on BMO’s 2017 Labour Market Performance Ranking.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Home to just over 400,000 people, Halifax and its province of Nova Scotia belong to “Atlantic Canada” with New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland, and Halifax is the region’s major economic hub. Ranking 42nd worldwide and 5th in Canada in quality of life, Halifax consistently ranks high in business-friendliness and the average price of a home is about $307,000, which is 35% lower than the national average of $474,600. According to Numbeo, Halifax has a quality-of-life index of about 174, significantly higher than the national average, and it also ranked 3rd out of 14 Canadian cities in an RBC Housing Affordability ranking. Prominent employers in the city include the Department of National Defence, the Port of Halifax, St. Mary’s University, and Dalhousie University.
Quebec City, Quebec
The average price of a home in Quebec City, just under $264,000 in 2016, is far lower than in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, and prices for apartment rentals ranked the lowest among seven major metro areas across Canada. It is the second-largest economic center of Quebec, behind Montreal, and the 7th-largest in Canada. Although Quebec City is primarily a French-speaking city (only 1.5% of citizens in the city and metro area are Anglophone), over one-third of residents are able to speak both languages. The city is home to about 532,000 people with over 800,000 in the metropolitan area.
Quebec City has high purchasing power and a very high safety index, as well as low property price-to-income ratios. According to Huffpost Canada’s rankings, which take into account labour market performance, housing affordability, and mortgage-to-income ratios, Quebec City ranks 2nd out of 15 cities in “Canada’s Best Cities for Jobs and Affordable Homes.”
Located on the western edge of Lake Ontario, Hamilton is a port city home to about 537,000 people, making it Ontario’s third-largest metropolitan area after Toronto and Ottawa. Ranking 33rd worldwide and 3rd in Canada for quality of life, it is primarily an industrial area which produces over 60% of Canada’s steel (Stelco and Dofasco). The city itself is divided into over 200 neighborhoods; compared to Toronto, rent prices are 63% lower in Hamilton and local purchasing power is 3.3% higher.
Hamilton has a quality-of-life index of 149.1, nearly 50% higher than the national average, and is known for its very high health care index. The city also ranks 2nd out of 33 Canadian cities in the 2017 BMO Labour Market Performance Ranking.
Ranking 49th worldwide and 7th in Canada in quality of life, Calgary is located in southern Alberta east of the Canadian Rockies and home to about 1.24 million people. Calgary remains a city of economic opportunity, including in energy, finance, and technical services, and the city and metro area are second only to Toronto in number of corporate headquarters in the country. The city is also known for its high purchasing power and a very low property price-to-income ratio. The Calgary Public Library is the second-largest in Canada and 6th-largest system in North America, and construction for the Calgary Central Library will be completed in 2018.
Major hospitals in the city include Foothills Medical Centre, Rockyview General Hospital, South Health Campus, and the Peter Lougheed Centre, as well as the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Calgary is also one of Canada’s top cities for small businesses and self-employment, and the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor remains one of the country’s fastest-growing regions in terms of population.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Ranking 35th worldwide and 4th in Canada in quality of life, Vancouver is Canada’s most densely-populated city and one of the most ethnically- and linguistically-diverse in the country, as an estimated 52% of citizens are not native English-speakers. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, Vancouver was the first city to rank in the global top ten for well-living in five consecutive years, despite an unprecedented housing crisis that has inflated average home prices to nearly three times the national average. While Vancouver’s quality-of-life index of 177.37 is significantly higher than the national average, the index for property price-to-income ratio is also high.
In 2014, Port Metro Vancouver surpassed New York City to become the third-largest port by tonnage in the Western Hemisphere and Canada’s largest and busiest port by significant margins. Other major industries in the area include foresting, tourism, and film production, the last of which has given Vancouver the nickname “Hollywood North.”
Montreal ranks 65th worldwide and 8th in Canada in quality of life, and it also ranked 14th out of 140 cities worldwide in the EIU’s 2015 Global Livability Ranking. Located on the Island of Montreal just north of the U.S. border, Montreal is home to 1.7 million people in the city and over 4 million in the metro area. Despite being surpassed economically by Toronto in the 1970s, it still maintains Canada’s second-largest economy and accounted for nearly 35% of Quebec’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2014. The city’s current quality-of-life index is 163.44.
Montreal hosts numerous world-renowned festivals throughout the year, including the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, the Montreal World Film Festival, and the Montreal International Jazz Festival. The Canadian Space Agency is headquartered in Longueuil, just 11 miles east of Montreal, and other corporations headquartered in the area include Bell Canada (telecommunications), Bombardier Inc. (aerospace & transportation), Air Canada, the Canadian National Railway, and the National Bank of Canada.