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Best City in Canada to Live in?

Between Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa? The main factors I'm considering is how easy it is to get a job (especially for foreigners), and the cost of living (cheapest apartments).

Posted by
4637 posts

It depends what kind of job. My educated guess is that cost of living is the cheapest in Edmonton, then Calgary then Ottawa. I personally would choose Calgary because of nearby Rockies.

Posted by
327 posts

If you want to compare living in major cities in Canada, the Statistics Canada website has a broad range of criteria to get you started:

Currently, there are many more people unemployed in Calgary than in Edmonton due to the downturn in the energy industry in 2014. How easy it is to get a job depends on your profession, skills and qualifications, etc. Foreigners need to go here first:

Posted by
11507 posts

Well they are all so cold in winter I wouldn't want any of them, choose Victoria if you can , there's no snow here !

Out of the theee you list I would choose Calgary or Ottawa , not Edmonton ( my sister lived there for 5 years and I stayed with her for a few months ) .

Posted by
14580 posts

Of the three, I have only been to Calgary, which was for a conference/workshops lasting a week in Feb 1996, never visited Ottawa and Edminton. It was held in a hotel in downtown Calgary. I like the place. Ottawa is on the visit list because of its museums and as the capital.

Posted by
4637 posts

David, maybe we can even drop "in Canada" from your sentence.

Posted by
9436 posts

David... Yes!! Anywhere but here. I'm at least grateful that I live close to SF.

Posted by
5837 posts

Before deciding between Calgary, Edmonton or Ottawa you may need to determine if Canada will want you.

Here is one point system calculator:
Not having arranged employment in Canada give you a "zero" points for that category.

I've been told that Canada will be very welcoming if you bring enough financial assets into the country and/or start a business that hires a bunch of Canadians.

As others note, Alberta lives on oil shale. With the current low oil prices, the oil shale business is a bust. When oil prices at $100+/bbl, Edmonton booms.

On a full-cycle basis, IHS estimated that a new greenfield oil sands
mine (without an upgrader) required a WTI price between $85 to $95 per
barrel on average in 2015—to breakeven. An steam-assisted gravity
drainage (SAGD) project required between $55 to $65 per barrel to
breakeven. Expansion of an existing SAGD facility required about $5
per barrel less to breakeven.

And BTW, Vancouver BC is a pretty nice place but housing prices skyrocketed when the UK gave up it's Hong Kong concession when the "lease" ended.

Posted by
372 posts

Curious as to why just those three cities? Generally, the farther north of the 49th parallel you go the cheaper the housing. The StatsCan suggested reference is a good one - tons of info there. If you expand your criteria to include climate then Victoria is your hands down winner. Other Canadians "snowbird" here! Plus, our housing prices are only the 3rd highest in the country.

Posted by
1172 posts

Where are you coming from? How did you end up with those 3 cities? What type of work are you looking for?

Of the 3, I would pick Ottawa hands down.

Posted by
5837 posts

Interesting that the OPs list are the 4th, 5th and 6th largest CMAs (census areas) of Canada and all in the 1+ Million population size vs Toronto at 5.5 Million. Calgary's population was only about a half million during my first visit in the 1980s. Since then, suburban spread has gone from the banks of the Bow northward to the airport and from the University westward beyond the Olympic ski jump park.

Calgary and Edmonton's 5 year double digit grown rate is likely lower with the world pricing of oil and American oil boom/glut. But that said, job growth and population growth are likely to happen together.

Only a few CMAs have shrank. Where are all these Canadians coming from? Couldn't be birth rate. Must be net migration.

Posted by
8293 posts

In the 1990's when Quebec separatists were giving us anglophones the heebie jeebies, my husband and I decided Ottawa would be our bolt hole if the referendum ended in a "yes" vote for separation from Canada. We also could have gone to the UK. Other Canadian cities held no appeal for us. As it happily turned out, the "no" vote prevailed and Montreal, not Ottawa, is home.

Posted by
32266 posts


I'm also a bit curious on why those three cities were chosen? Which country are you from?

You haven't provided any information on your job skills or background, so it's almost impossible to say which city will be easiest to get a job. If you have specialized skills, that will probably make the process easier. Having a job lined-up before you make the move is the best method. If you arrive at the border without the necessary work permits, CBSA will have you on the next plane back to your point of origin.

If you meet the criteria, this might be one way you could try one of the cities on your list....

"Citizens of the U.S. who are full-time students (or have been within the past 9 months) are eligible for 12-month working holiday permits if obtained through the intermediary organization SWAP."

Here's their website -

You may find these websites interesting.....

Which city you end up living in will probably depend on which one you can find a job in your field of expertise. Of course, with a permanent move, there's also the issue of meeting Immigration requirements which can be onerous and complicated.

The cost and availability of rental housing will vary from one city to another. In terms of ease of finding a job, you might also want to consider the "have or have-not" status of each of the Provinces. At the moment, B.C. is prospering and therefore jobs may be easier to find. Alberta is in a "slump" right now because of the downturn in the oil industry, and therefore jobs may not be as easy to find. In fact there's some indication that even criminals are moving to B.C. due to the economic situation - .

One final point to mention regarding Ottawa is that you may have a very hard time securing a job if you don't speak both English and French. I know someone that was unable to get work there because she couldn't speak French.

Good luck!

Posted by
5837 posts

Re Ken: Of course, with a permanent move, there's also the issue of meeting Immigration requirements which can be onerous and complicated.

Back in the early 2000s time frame, another American conservative cycle, I met Calgary immigration attorneys during a ski in trip to Skoki Lodge in Banff NP. During that time frame, the attorneys were charging about $5000 (CND was about 0.70 USD) to get you through the legal immigration process. It helps the acceptance process if you bring financial assets and skill assets into the country.

Posted by
5837 posts

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Posted by
7906 posts

I don't know about living there, but Ottawa looked like a great place. Also, we loved Vancouver. However, the real estate prices there are outrageous.

We did a Canadian Rockies tour and loved Alberta. Alberta is the Texas of Canada.

Posted by
350 posts

Having lived in Calgary I must say its my favourite city in Canada. It was about 12 years ago but I loved it. I grew up in Toronto and have moved back for family reasons but enjoyed Calgary. It was a modern and fun city with the Rockies on your doorstep. Only visited Edmonton but was not a fan. Ottawa is a government and university town. Job opportunities are much better if you speak both English and French. I would moved back to Calgary before any of the other cities

Posted by
13 posts

Ok, I haven't checked this forum in awhile. Thank you for the responses and your curiousity. I'm impressed.

I'm not moving to Canada permanently. I'm only going on the 1 year working holiday visa. I'm from the states. Yanks can finally get it for Canada!

I chose Calgary, Edmonton, or Ottawa, because those are all cosmopolitan cities that are supposed to be fun, but not as big as Toronto. I'm looking for alternatives to Toronto. I used to love Toronto, but now I have mixed feelings and reservations about going back there. Toronto is basically a smaller New York or Chicago. It's fast paced, loud, and has lots of aggressive crazy and drunk people on the transit. Plus it was hard to find a job there. If Canadians are so friendly, I don't find Toronto to be representative of that. I didn't like Vancouver either.

I like Victoria. But Victoria is awfully small, and doesn't have as much to do as the other cities I mentioned including jobs. I might get bored spending a year in Victoria.

Also where has the cheapest apartments? I don't see lots of apartment complexes/buildings like in the states.
What do all think?

Posted by
200 posts

As he usually does, Ken has provided a good amount of insightful information above, but as my tag suggests, I'd like to add my Ottawa perspective. To start, you are probably already aware that Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday throughout 2017. And Ottawa, as the capital, will be hosting much of party, particularly around July 1. You haven't said when your year stay begins, but if it is sometime in the next few months, this summer will be a particularly exciting one to be in Ottawa.

The sesquicentennial aside, one major thing to consider in your decision- call it the elephant in the room-is that any 12 month stay in Canada involves several months of winter. Calgary is close enough to the mountains to enjoy some beautiful day or weekend trips (and the National Parks are free during 2017 by the way), which is an definite advantage in the summer, but not so much in the winter unless you're a skier. Edmonton is a bit too far for day-tripping to the mountains, and not a place I would want to spend the winter. Ottawa winters are also cold and snowy, but there are a lot of options for things to see- museums and such- and places to visit- including trips to Montreal (2 hours by train or car), or a weekend trip to Toronto or Quebec City (4+ hours by train). There is also lots of skiing within 30 minutes of Ottawa if you're so inclined, although it's nothing like the Rockies. I guess my point is, if you're going to base yourself in one of the three cities you list for twelve months, make sure you take winter into account. Good luck with your visit!

Posted by
3941 posts

We have a friend who lives in Edmonton - the other day he said he was running out of food but it was too cold and he didn't want to go He was going to take his chances with starvation ;) I think Ottawa would have some great winter activities with the skating on the canal and closeness to places like Montreal and Toronto.

I know while the oil boom was on that people were paying an arm and a leg for teeny tiny apartments in Alberta - but with oil down in price, cheaper apartments may be possible. But it may be a struggle to find a job with a lot of oil workers out of work.

Personally, I'd never live out in the Prairies. Too bloody cold. And too bloody hot in the summer. Nova Scotia at least has the ocean to make us a little more temperate - we still have wild temp fluctuations - we had -28C windchill one day last week, the next day it was's crazy. But Halifax doesn't have the best job market, unfortunately.

I'd probably try of luck!

Posted by
178 posts

Frankly, the job opportunities would be limited in Ottawa. It's a "company" town being that it's the capital. Being bi-lingual is pretty much required for many jobs there, good paying jobs,that is,unless you are aiming for a "service" job. And the cost of rentals and living are just as high as other big Canadian cities.

Your observations about Toronto are somewhat exaggerated.

Posted by
15693 posts

Personally, I would choose St. Johns, Newfoundland. This way, when I get a hankering for Europe, I can get on a plane and 45 minutes later be buying baguettes with Euros.

Posted by
7078 posts

I'm curious Frank, where would you be buying those baguettes with euros in 45 min?

Posted by
3941 posts

Nancy...St Pierre and Miquelon...

Saint Pierre and Miquelon, officially the Overseas collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon (French: Collectivité d'Outre-mer de Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, French pronunciation: ​[sɛ̃.pjɛʁ.e.mi.klɔ̃]), is a self-governing territorial overseas collectivity of France, situated in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean near the Newfoundland and Labrador province of Canada.[3] It is the only remnant of the former colonial empire of New France that still remains under French control,[3] with an area of 242 km2 and a population of 6,080 at the January 2011 census.[1]

Posted by
13 posts

I would imagine that Iceland is a pretty short flight from Newfoundland also. Not sure if they have baguettes though, maybe frozen ones.......

Posted by
15693 posts

Nice job, Nicole. It figures that someone from the Maritime Provinces would get it.

No baguettes in Iceland. Really good rolls and brown bread.

As of now, and this may change soon, but the only place to legally buy a Renault or Peugot in North America is on St. PIerre.

Posted by
3941 posts

I'm sure I'd have no clue about st Pierre if I didn't live nearby! Maybe someday I'll visit...