Living in Calgary
Calgary is a diverse and prosperous city in the province of Alberta. It sits in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where the Bow and Elbow rivers meet, and is framed by fresh air, open spaces, parks and pathways, and mountains and rivers.
Calgary enjoys more days of sunshine than any other major Canadian city and is less than an hour’s drive from the majestic Rockies.
A number of immigrants are attracted to Calgary, because of the lowest tax rate in the country, strong oil and gas and agriculture industries and above all, affordable housing.
Close to the Rocky Mountains, Calgary experiences a dry, humid continental climate, with long, cold, dry, but variable winters, and short, moderately warm summers.
The city is among the sunniest in Canada however, with an average of 332.9 days every year. Even on cold, snowy days, you may still feel warmed by the sun.
The average temperature in Calgary ranges from a January daily average of −8.9 °C to a July daily average of 16.2 °C.
The chinook is a distinctive characteristic of the Calgary winters which can be uncomfortably cold sometimes. The Chinook is a warm, moist wind from the Pacific Ocean that may raise the temperature by as much as 15 degrees in a few hours.
Calgary Transit offers public transportation services across the city with buses, shuttle buses and light rail (C-Train). The light rail network is the backbone of the system and consists of four lines on 58.2 km of track. It is free downtown – simply hop on at any stop along 7 Ave. As long as you get off the train before leaving downtown, no fare is required.
You can purchase one-way tickets can directly from bus drivers, vending machines at LRT platforms and stations, and from selected vendors. The fare is a flat rate as Calgary Transit does not have a system of zones which require further payment; one fare will get you to any destination in the city. Click here for a list of fare prices.
Calgary International Airport (YYC), in the city’s northeast, is a transportation hub for much of central and western Canada. In 2010, it was the fourth busiest airport in Canada by passenger movement, and third busiest by aircraft movements.
The city’s presence on the Trans-Canada Highway and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) mainline also make it an important hub for freight.
Calgary offers as well a network of shared and multi-use (bicycle, walking, rollerblading, etc.) paths spanning over 800 km.
Calgary lies at the intersection of the Trans-Canada Highway and the QE2 Highway, an hour east of the Rockies.
The city uses a numbered street system laid out on a grid; streets run north-south, while avenues run east-west. The numbers radiate outwards from the city centre. However, you may find some roads in predominantly residential areas as well as freeways and expressways that are not numbered and in that case, non-numbered streets within a new community will have the same name prefix as the community itself so that streets can more easily be located within the city.
For information on driving in Alberta and how to get a licence, see Driving.
Places of worship
In keeping with the multi-cultural makeup of Calgary, the city is home to a number of faith communities. To find out about different places of worship in Calgary, click here.
Pre-arrival settlement and employment services in Alberta available through the Canadian Immigrant Integration Program (CIIP) (Video)
Society (City Size and Population?)
According to the 2013 municipal census, Calgary has a population of 1,149,552, a 2.6% increase over its 2012. It is a young city, with the median age being 36.0 years.
Calgary is the third-most ethnically diverse city in all of Canada; according to the 2011 National Household Survey findings, it has one of the highest visible minority rates in Canada, behind only Toronto and Vancouver.
Most Calgary residents are of European origin. In 2011, this group accounted for 64.5 per cent of the city’s population. Calgarians whose ancestors hailed from England, Scotland, Germany, Ireland and France make up a large percentage of the population. That being said, the city is host to a broad range of other ethnic minority groups.
5.6 per cent of Calgary’s total labour force is visible minorities with Chinese, South Asian, Filipino and Arab/West Asian being the largest individual ethnic groups (2006).
26.2 percent of Calgarians identify themselves as immigrants, and 28.1 per cent are included in a visible minority group. (2011)
Calgary has had the strongest performing urban economy in Canada for the past 10 years, and is expected to stay at the top – or close to it – through 2017.
The city is recognized as the capital of the Canadian oil and gas industry, as well as a leader in economic expansion. It is home to many of Canada’s oil and gas producers, and is the decision-making hub and head office location of every energy company doing business in this country. As well, Calgary is becoming a global energy centre, with a strong representation of coal companies, and organizations working in alternative energies, green power and environmental technologies. Many financial businesses have grown up around these energy companies. Small business and self-employment levels also rank amongst the highest in Canada.
Some large employers with Calgary head offices include Canada Safeway Limited, Westfair Foods Ltd., Suncor Energy, Agrium, Flint Energy Services Ltd., Shaw Communication, and Canadian Pacific Railway. Canada’s second biggest airline, WestJet, is headquartered close to the Calgary International Airport.
The city has also invested into non-energy related areas such as high-tech manufacturing and tourism, and is known for its famed Calgary Stampede and cowboy culture.
Finding a Home
Finding a home in Calgary shouldn’t be too difficult, as there are plenty of options, and purchases costs are less than in larger cities like Vancouver or Toronto. Interestingly, rental costs are quite high compared to other Canadian cities.
Average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Calgary is $1,409 per month; average home sale prices are $479,609.
To find rental apartments, you can check your local newspaper classifieds or online sites like Craigslist.
To purchase a home, contact a realtor in the area, who will guide you through the home-buying process.
Calgary has four major adult acute care hospitals and one major pediatric acute care site: the Alberta Children’s Hospital, the Foothills Medical Centre, the Peter Lougheed Centre, the Rockyview General Hospital and the South Health Campus.
Calgary is also home to the leading cancer centre in Alberta, the Tom Baker Cancer Centre. The four largest Calgary hospitals have a combined total of more than 2,100 beds, and employ over 11,500 people.
In addition to these centres, you will find many other care centres, as well as hundreds of smaller medical and dental clinics operating in the city.
One of the first steps you need to take after arriving in Calgary is finding a family doctor or specialist who has experience with a specific condition.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta provides a very handy online search tool that you can use to find a doctor in Calgary.
If you are unable to find a family doctor, you can go to one of many general non-emergency walk-in clinics in the city and also register with the Primary Care Network for Calgary for assistance.
Calgary offers a wealth of options when it comes to schools in the city: public, Catholic, francophone, bilingual, language immersion, private, charter, religious, sports-focused, arts-focused, music-focused, science-focused.
The city offers as well child care and pre-school options. If you have a lower income, you may be eligible for some government help to cover the costs of childcare.
To find Calgary day cares, pre-schools, family day homes, out of school care or group family child care, the government has a great child care search tool.
As home to more immigrants than any other community in Alberta, Calgary offers many English as a second language (ESL) schools in the city. Most immigrant-serving centres and organizations also provide ESL classes, while there are programs in place for younger students within both the public and Catholic school systems.
The Calgary Public Library is the city’s public library network, with seventeen branches loaning books, e-books, CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, audio books, and more.
Calgary is the site of the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium performing arts, culture and community facility, which is the resident home of the Alberta Ballet Company, the Calgary Opera and a number of other cultural ceremonies. The city is also home to a number of theatre companies.
Calgary hosts a number of annual festivals and events, such as the Calgary International Film Festival, the Calgary Folk Music Festival, the Greek Festival, Wordfest: Banff Calgary International Writers Festival, Expo Latino, Calgary Pride, and many other cultural and ethnic festivals. The city has a number of multicultural areas where you can find a variety of ethnic restaurants and stores.
The city is best-known for the Calgary Stampede, which is an annual event occurring each July since 1912. It is one of Canada’s largest festivals, with over 1 million people visiting it every year.
In large part due to its proximity to the Rocky Mountains, the city has traditionally been a popular destination for winter sports. And after hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics, Calgary has also welcomed a number of major winter sporting facilities such as Canada Olympic Park and the Olympic Oval
The city also has a large number of urban parks including Fish Creek Provincial Park, Bowness Park, Edworthy Park, the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Confederation Park, and Prince’s Island Park, and Nose Hill Park, which is the largest municipal park in Canada.