Choosing where to live is an important decision. This is especially true given the different regions, provinces, and cities in Canada. And each region and city is unique. With this information, you can decide what is most appealing to you and your family.
While most newcomers usually land in Canada’s largest cities Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary, there are many other cities to consider before you arrive.
In fact, research from Statistics Canada reveals that a greater number of recent newcomers (those in Canada less than five years) are choosing to settle in small and mid-size cities. This is likely due to affordability. And many smaller cities provide a great quality of life. With benefits such as lower housing prices and cost of living, it’s worth exploring small and medium-size cities in Canada.
5 Regions of Canada
Before looking at cities in Canada, here’s some information about Canada. It’s a vast country with:
- five regions
- ten provinces
- three territories.
And it has many cities that range in size from small, to mid-size, to large. Canada covers an area of 10 million square kilometres. This makes Canada the second-largest country after the United States in terms of landmass. Despite Canada’s landmass, most Canadians live within 200 kilometres of the US border. This is mainly due to factors related to climate, economy, and historical settlement patterns.
The landscape of the regions is also quite different. With abundant natural resources, the key industries in each region are often tied to resources. From a broader view, Canada has five regions:
Atlantic Region includes the maritime provinces of:
- New Brunswick
- Nova Scotia
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Prince Edward Island.
Central Canada Region includes the provinces of:
Prairies Region includes the provinces of:
West Coast Region includes the province of:
- British Columbia
North Region includes three territories:
- Northwest Territories
- Yukon Territory.
Choosing a City in Canada to Live
Choosing where to live in Canada is based on your personal and practical needs. And there is much to consider from the region, to the province, to the city in Canada.
Helpful research conducted by Maclean’s magazine can be a great place to start! Maclean’s ranked 415 communities in Canada based on eight factors. Knowing what factors are more important to you, you can use their ranking tool to weigh the factors. Based on your preferences, you may discover a city in Canada that you had never considered.
Ranking Criteria for Cities in Canada
1. Housing affordability
- Property tax as a percent of average income
- Tax rate for average family by province
- Five-year average of crime severity
Annual days with:
- a low above 0 C
- rain, snow, or other precipitation
- a high of about 20 C.
- Specialists per 100,000 residents
- Doctor’s offices per 100,000 residents
- Nearby hospitals
- Restaurants and bars
- Nearby airport
6. Population growth
- Rate of growth over the past five years
7. Community Involvement
- Level of community engagement by residents
8. Internet quality
- Internet speed
- How many people could work or study at home based on internet speed.
The Top 10 Cities in Canada
Results from the 2021 Maclean’s research revealed that four cities from the Atlantic region landed in the top 10 positions.
Halifax, Nova Scotia: position #1
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island: position #1
Fredericton, New Brunswick: position #2
Moncton, New Brunswick: position #7
Two Number One Cities in Canada!
It’s a tie! Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island tied for the number one position.
Each of these four cities in Canada ranked internet access as their top feature. In a post-pandemic world, internet access provides many people with an option to work from anywhere in Canada. Because of the pandemic, many employers had to move people from working in offices to working remotely wherever possible. And with a rise in the remote workforce, it means fewer people are restricted to living in costly, urban cities. This has been a big driver for small and mid-size cities to attract newcomers.
Size of Cities in Canada
For a helpful reference, city sizes are:
Small city: population below 100,000
Mid-size city: population between 100,000 and 400,000
Large city: minimum population of 400,000
#1 Halifax, Nova Scotia
The City of Halifax is an economic hub for Atlantic Canada. Its major employers range from government services to private sector companies. Halifax also serves as a business, banking, government, and cultural centre for the Atlantic region. Major sectors include:
- financial services
- information technology
- healthcare, and
Top three features: Internet access, amenities, and health.
#1 Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Tied for #1 with Halifax, Charlottetown is also situated in the Atlantic region. Known as a popular tourist location, it also shows economic growth in:
- agriculture, and
This growing city offers a great and low cost of living.
Top three features include: Internet access, amenities, and population growth.
#2 Fredericton, New Brunswick
In position #2, this charming city in Canada is also located in the Atlantic Region.
Fredericton was named the Startup Community of Canada because of its high concentration of knowledge industry companies in Information, Communications and Technology (ICT). The city is also known for its growth in:
- bio science
- clean technology, and
Top three features: Internet access, amenities, and affordability.
Learn what Fredericton offers newcomers at our free Discover Fredericton webinar.
#3 St. Thomas, Ontario
St. Thomas is a small city located in southwestern Ontario with a population of 40,000. It’s located within a two-hour drive to Toronto, Ontario, and a 25-minute drive to London, Ontario. With high-quality internet access and connectivity, you can live in this community and work remotely. Another affordable option to more expensive cities in Canada.
With amenities from breweries and wineries, to parks, schools, and more St. Thomas is projected to grow by 50,600 people by 2041.
Top Three Features: internet access; health; amenities
#4 Belleville, Ontario
Belleville is also participating in the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program to fill labour shortages and support economic growth. To apply for this pilot, you must complete an intake form and submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top Three Features: internet access, health; amenities
#5 Edmonton, Alberta
Edmonton, is the capital city of Alberta and is located in the prairies provinces. With a population of over 1 million people, it offers many opportunities for employment, business, recreation, and culture. While it’s known for its oil and gas industry, it also has a growing tech sector and is home to many of Alberta’s top employers. Read more about What to Know About Living in Edmonton, Alberta.
Many new Canadians choose to locate in Edmonton and account for 30% of residents.
Top three features: internet access; amenities; health
#6 Winnipeg, Manitoba
Winnipeg is Manitoba’s capital city with a population of about 750,000. It’s also a top choice for immigrants and offers an affordable cost of living and boasts a better work-life balance than other cities in Canada. Located in one of the prairies provinces, agriculture is a key industry. Other large employers include government and services such as hospitals and universities. Read more: What to Know About Living in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Top three features: Internet access, amenities, health
#7 Moncton, New Brunswick
Moncton is located in the centre of Atlantic Canada. With a population of around 140,000 (including the cities of Moncton and Dieppe, and the Town of Riverview). Moncton is known for its quality of life in a community that is welcoming, friendly, and innovative. It boasts a vibrant arts and entertainment scene with sports, recreation, and education opportunities. The city is growing with a range of career and business options.
Its key industries include insurance, financial services, and ICT. Moncton also has growing expertise in gaming technologies and animation and is known for its Smart City mindset.
Top three features: internet access, housing affordability; amenities
#8 Cornwall, Ontario
Cornwall has a population of just under 47,000. It is located between Toronto and Ottawa, and about a 90 minute to Ottawa. Some of the key sector include manufacturing, logistics, and food processing. And Cornwall has some of the most affordable housing prices in Ontario. Which is great news for first-time home buyers. Cornwall’s average house price is approximately $261.886 compared to the national average of $494,938.
The City of Cornwall is part of a two-year Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program that began in 2020.
Top three features: internet access; health; community
#9 Brooks, Alberta
Brooks is a small city in Canada with a population of close to 16,000. And, it steadily sees year after year growth. It is located between Calgary (Alberta’s largest city) and Medicine Hat. Some of its key industries include agriculture, cannabis production, renewable energy, and oil and gas.
Top three features: internet access; taxes; population growth
While the large urban centres are familiar, it’s definitely worth researching other cities in Canada before you arrive. You may be surprised by the benefits of living in a smaller city.
To learn more about available jobs in these cities, check out our job board.
For more information, tools, and free webinars about living in Canada visit our Settling in Canada resource page. We’ll help you to settle in Canada successfully!