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Is it better to live in Calgary or Vancouver?

Feb 14, 2023  
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Despite being separated by almost 1,000 kilometers, Vancouver and Calgary share several similarities but also differ in crucial aspects. Calgary, located in Alberta, is an inland city with a population of over 1.3 million residents and a climate characterized by dry and bright, but colder conditions. The city is renowned for its rodeo events, winter sports, and the Calgary Tower. On the other hand, Vancouver is a coastal city with a population of around 662,000 residents and a warm, often wet climate. It is famous for its scenic coastal landscapes and thriving film industry. This guide aims to highlight the main similarities and differences between these two cities for anyone considering relocating to either Calgary or Vancouver.

Calgary Economy vs. Vancouver Economy

Both Vancouver and Calgary are significant players in Canada’s economy and boast considerable manufacturing and transportation sectors. However, due to its coastal location, Vancouver experiences greater advantages in tourism and international trade, though it also comes with the drawback of higher costs for products and services.

Cost of Living Comparison

Calgary boasts a low cost of living compared to other major North American cities. On average, an individual can expect to spend around $850 per month on food, transportation, and utilities. When it comes to housing, each square meter of living space can cost anywhere from $2,800 to $3,200. Single-family homes are typically priced lower than condos of equivalent interior space, with an average residential property selling for almost $640,000. Townhomes, due to their smaller sizes, cost around $350,000.

Is Vancouver more expensive than Calgary? Although transportation and utility costs are somewhat lower, housing costs in Vancouver are significantly higher, with the average home price reaching nearly $1.41 million. Food costs are also slightly higher in Vancouver, with both groceries and restaurant meals costing more. There is little difference in local healthcare expenses. Ultimately, Vancouver ranks among the five most expensive cities in Canada.

Job Market Comparison

Calgary continues to see growth in its job market across various industries, including recreation, hospitality, medical, transportation, and retail. This growth has led to the creation of over 18,000 new technical and professional jobs, with the unemployment rate falling by 3% and average hourly wages increasing. Weekly earnings have grown by 5.5%.

Vancouver also boasts a strong labor market, decreasing unemployment and increasing job vacancies. The tech and construction industries have advertised numerous job openings, and the city’s thriving entertainment industry, including movie, TV, animation, and video game production, employs over 20,000 people. Vancouver’s location near the Pacific Ocean also creates employment opportunities.

Top Industries and Major Corporations

Calgary has a diverse economy with significant contributions from industries such as finance, health, technology, insurance, transportation, film, manufacturing, and tourism. The city attracts over 3 million tourists each year and is home to several major petroleum companies, including Suncor and Cenovus Energy, as well as Imperial Oil, Canadian Pacific Railway, and Shaw Communications. Calgary is home to more corporate headquarters than most large cities in Canada, providing numerous high-paying career opportunities.

Vancouver’s early industries included sugar refineries and sawmills, and after the opening of the Panama Canal, it began exporting products to the eastern U.S. and Western Europe. Today, the city’s seaport serves fishing vessels, cargo ships, and cruise lines, attracting over 10 million tourists each year. Other major industries in Vancouver include entertainment, mining, forestry, and manufacturing, with factories producing a range of goods from boats to sawmill machinery.

Both cities benefit from their proximity to major airports and rail lines, with the energy industry playing a bigger role in Calgary and international shipping and fishing being more prominent in Vancouver. Calgary offers opportunities for advancement in high-level corporate jobs in the energy and telecom fields, while Vancouver’s location near the Pacific Ocean provides employment opportunities in shipping and fishing.

Calgary Commutes vs. Vancouver Commutes

In both Vancouver and Calgary, the streets are bustling, but the majority of residents work close by and do not have to travel far distances. Many people opt to walk or bike to their workplaces, with Vancouver offering over 300 km of bicycle lanes and Calgary featuring extensive walkways for pedestrians. Although most people still commute by car, public transportation is also readily available, offering residents an alternative to traffic and parking headaches.

Driving in Calgary is typically convenient, with an average commuter spending 25 minutes on the city’s grid-based streets each day during rush hour. The area experiences less congestion than other Canadian cities, with the heaviest traffic occurring between 7:00-9:30 a.m. and 3:30-5:30 p.m. During this time, Stoney Trail and Deerfoot Trail become particularly busy. Most people drive for 15-30 minutes and the majority have commuting times under 45 minutes. Commuting from Chestermere’s luxury homes to Calgary takes less than 30 minutes.

In both Vancouver and Calgary, the streets are bustling, but the majority of residents work close by and do not have to travel far distances. Many people opt to walk or bike to their workplaces, with Vancouver offering over 300 km of bicycle lanes and Calgary featuring extensive walkways for pedestrians. Although most people still commute by car, public transportation is also readily available, offering residents an alternative to traffic and parking headaches.

Driving in Calgary is typically convenient, with an average commuter spending 25 minutes on the city’s grid-based streets each day during rush hour. The area experiences less congestion than other Canadian cities, with the heaviest traffic occurring between 7:00-9:30 a.m. and 3:30-5:30 p.m. During this time, Stoney Trail and Deerfoot Trail become particularly busy. Most people drive for 15-30 minutes and the majority have commuting times under 45 minutes. Commuting from Chestermere’s luxury homes to Calgary takes less than 30 minutes.

Vancouver’s public transportation system is operated by TransLink and includes trains, diesel buses, and ferries. The SkyTrain light rail service connects suburban areas like Coquitlam and Burnaby to the downtown district, while the West Coast Express train and multiple ferries serve North Vancouver. Around 53,500 people commute using this system.

For those seeking short downtown commutes, Calgary has several excellent suburbs, including Marlborough and Inglewood, both of which take less than 15 minutes to reach downtown. The lakeside Kinniburgh neighbourhood of Chestermere is also an option, with a 20–25-minute drive on the Trans-Canada Highway and bus services available. The Ravenswood neighbourhood in Airdrie offers beautiful mountain views and a golf course, with a 24-minute drive to Calgary.

In Vancouver, the Burnaby suburb is a popular choice for those seeking quick access to downtown, with a 27-minute drive. Burnaby is home to Simon Fraser University and various manufacturing plants and warehouses. For those who prefer island living, Richmond is a great option, with a 30-minute drive to downtown and plenty of parks, seaports, and trails to enjoy.

In conclusion, both Vancouver and Calgary have extensive public transportation networks serving the cities and their suburbs. However, Vancouver commuters face more persistent traffic congestion, which increases fuel costs and prolongs car and bus commutes, especially during rush hour.

What to Do in Calgary vs. What to Do in Vancouver

When it comes to recreation and leisure activities, both Vancouver and Calgary have a lot to offer. While each city has its own unique features and differences, residents of both places can find plenty of exciting things to do.

Outdoor Activities:

Calgary is known for its extensive biking and walking paths, which span over 1,100 km and draw visitors from across the region. Residents can enjoy activities like picnicking, cycling, and hiking in parks like North Glenmore Park and Bowness Park. The city also offers opportunities for rafting, boating, and exploring the foothills.

Vancouver, on the other hand, boasts stunning views of the ocean, islands, and mountains. Beach-goers can relax and soak up the sun, while those who enjoy hiking can tackle the steep 2.9-kilometer trail at Grouse Mountain. The summit can also be reached via gondola.

Sports:

Hockey is the most popular sport in Calgary, with two major teams – the Calgary Flames of the NHL and the Calgary Hitmen. Soccer, lacrosse, and football are also popular, and the city is home to the annual Stampede rodeo festival, which attracts over a million attendees. Golfing is another favorite pastime in Calgary, especially at popular courses like McKenzie Meadows and Elbow Springs.

Vancouver is host to a variety of sports events and teams, including baseball, soccer, hockey, and football. The city also hosts bike races and marathons, and ski resorts can be found on nearby coastal mountains.

Nightlife:

Both cities offer an array of indoor activities and nightlife options, including bars, nightclubs, and casinos. Calgary is home to large nightclubs like Cowboys Dance Hall and The Palace, as well as over 20 casinos. Visitors can also enjoy live music events at places like The Blues Can, where they can sample food and drinks while listening to Alberta-based performers.

Vancouver is known for its vibrant music scene, with live events ranging from small restaurant performances to huge stadium concerts. The city is home to historic theaters and ballrooms, and famous bands from around the world have performed at the Commodore Ballroom on Granville Street.

Vancouver vs. Calgary: Where Should Your Home Be?

In conclusion, Calgary provides a cost-effective living experience compared to other big cities in Canada. Additionally, its top neighbourhoods offer a high standard of living that can match that of any city. Calgary’s climate is sunnier and less humid than Vancouver, but not as warm. Both cities have thriving economies, with Vancouver attracting more tourists and Calgary being home to more energy companies. Both cities have reliable public transportation options, catering to residents who prefer walking or cycling.

Choosing a city to purchase a home in is a highly subjective matter, so make use of this information, and don’t forget to visit the cities you’re considering to make a well-informed decision.

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