Living in Calgary, Alberta


Living in Calgary:



Calgary’s Location

CharacterBusiness and JobsBest Places to LiveTransportSummary and Pros and Cons

Calgary:

  Is Alberta’s most populous city, with a metropolitan population of 1.4 million.
  Sits more than 1 kilometre above sea level.
  Is a prairie city with a climate that is dry, sunny, windy, and cool.
  Is a three hour drive from Canada’s border with the United States.
  Is a one hour drive from the Rocky Mountains.
  Is one of Canada’s wealthiest cities, with a low unemployment rate.
  Is one of the world’s most livable cities.
  Is one of the world’s cleanest cities.
  Has North America’s first wind-powered public transit system – the C Train.
  Has prohibited pet cats from roaming freely.
  Has the biggest network of buildings connected by footbridges in the world.

Character

Apartments on the Bow River in Calgary
High Rise Apartments on the Bow River in Calgary

Calgary sits in a vast, often brown coloured plain in Southern Alberta.

The prairie here is far above sea level: Calgary’s elevation is 1050 metres (3445 feet) above sea level.

Calgary is Alberta’s largest city, larger than Edmonton, the province’s capital. Calgary has grown rapidly in recent years.

Calgary’s latitude – 51 degrees north – is similar to London, Paris, Seattle and Vancouver.

Its high latitude results in long days in summer and long nights in winter.

Calgary is semi-arid – hence the brown landscape.

Sitting on the prairies, the city enjoys plenty of sunshine with low rainfall.

The Rocky Mountains rise dramatically to the west.

Of all Canada’s provinces, Alberta’s character is most like the USA. Alberta has cowboy boots, rodeos, cow festivals (Calgary is sometimes called Cowtown) and American spellings. Its government is to the right of Canada’s other provinces. Alberta has a reputation for socially conservative attitudes.

Calgary has a lower violent crime rate than any other major city in Canada.

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Business and Jobs

Pumpjack
Oil Pumpjack in Alberta Canola Field

Alberta has the lion’s share of Canada’s oil industry. Its reserves – in the form of oil-sands – are estimated to be second only to Saudi Arabia’s. Calgary is one of Canada’s wealthiest cities.

Low taxes have brought many businesses to Calgary. Small businesses in Alberta pay just 14 percent tax, and there is no payroll tax.

Calgary’s recent spectacular growth rate has slowed as a result of the credit crunch and, in particular, uncertain oil prices.

Calgary’s unemployment rate moving in mid 2014 was 5.5 percent, lower than the Canadian average of 7.1 percent. The number has worsened slightly from a year ago, when Calgary’s unemployment was 5.1 percent and has fallen significantly from 2010 when it reached 7.6 percent. Calgary’s unemployment rate was below 4 percent in 2007 and 2008.

Approximately 32,000 jobs have been created in Calgary in the last 12 months to June 2014. A strong energy sector and a growing population are expected to drive employment prospects in Calgary in 2014 and beyond.

Downtown Calgary
Downtown Calgary

The oil industry and its suppliers pay some of the highest salaries in Calgary.

The government, universities and schools aren’t quite as generous with their money but offer reasonable salaries and good conditions of employment.

Despite Calgary’s lower than average unemployment rate, getting well-paid work has proved difficult for many migrants when they first arrive in the city. Many of Calgary’s employers seem to look first for a local employee. If they can’t find a suitable local employee, employers will consider employing a migrant.

If you have specialist, in-demand skills in the oil and gas industry, you are less likely to have difficulties.

Getting low paid work is easier.

There is no general sales tax levied in Alberta, although shoppers need to pay a federal sales tax of 5 percent. Shoppers in other Canadian provinces have to add a combined sales tax to their purchases ranging from 10 percent in Saskatchewan to 15 percent in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Alberta and Calgary’s public finances are very healthy, and the standard of healthcare compares favourably with other parts of Canada.

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About Health

Although healthcare is good, Calgary’s breakneck growth means you may find it difficult to get a family doctor when you first arrive in Calgary – there is a shortage.

Calgary Health maintains a list of family doctors currently accepting new patients here (pdf document).

If you haven’t registered with a family doctor, but need the services of one, you can use a walk-in clinic free of charge, provided you have an AHCIP card (Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan card).

When you arrive in Alberta you need to wait three months before you are eligible for an AHCIP card. This applies whether you are relocating internationally or from another Canadian province. To cover you during this time, private health insurance should be considered.

Environment and Getting Around

Plus 15
New Offices with +15 Bridge

Calgary has a very clean environment. It was rated as the world’s cleanest city by Forbes Magazine in 2007 (this is the most recent survey published) and as the world’s fifth most livable city by the Economist in 2012.

Calgary has little litter, and the air is refreshingly clear and crisp. In 2010, Mercer carried out a survey of quality of life in cities around the world and rated Calgary as the world’s top Eco-city on the basis of the city’s waste removal service, sewage systems, water drinkability & availability, and low air pollution.

Cats and dogs must be licensed by the City of Calgary.

Regulations prohibit pet cats from roaming in Calgary; this means that a cat must remain on the owner’s property.

Dogs must not be allowed off-leash unless they are in a securely fenced private yard or a designated off-leash area.

Calgary has 149 public off-leash areas, making a total of more than 1,250 hectares (3125 acres). Just over one-sixth of city parkland is designated off-leash.

Calgary has some wonderful, extensive parkland with unvandalised playgrounds. The parks have attractive paths and cycle routes – especially parks on the Bow River.

Buildings in downtown Calgary are linked by the +15 network of overhead pedestrian bridges, shown in one of the images on this page.

The +15 network is heated, so you can walk around the downtown’s buildings and shops in winter without the need for winter clothing.

The network (so called because the bridges are about 15 feet above the ground) is the biggest network of buildings connected by footbridges in the world, about 16 kilometers (10 miles) long in total.

Calgary’s public transport is reasonably good.

The Bow River, at Banff in the Rockies, west of Calgary
The Bow River, at Banff in the Rockies, west of Calgary

The C Train (a light railway) is reliable and runs from some of the suburbs into downtown Calgary. You can see the C Train’s Stations and routes here.

The C Train is powered by electricity generated by windfarms. Within downtown Calgary you can travel free on the C Train. Outside downtown, there are free park-and-ride-car-parks for the C Train and buses.

Park and Ride car parks feature free plug-in block heaters. These heaters are needed in cold weather to preheat car engines before they can start. The C Train stations aren’t enclosed, which makes for some very chilly waits in winter.

Most Calgarians prefer using their cars to public transport. City officials estimate that more than forty percent of downtown workers use the C Train regularly though.

Calgary’s growth has been faster at times than the government’s ability to cope.

Infrastructure is falling behind population and there can be traffic jams during rush hour.

People coming from larger cities in other countries will find the traffic relatively easy. Getting around is made harder by Calgary’s many traffic lights.

Suburban developments have outpaced school construction. This has led to lengthy journeys for some children and overcrowding of popular existing schools.

Where to Live in Calgary

New Houses, Calgary Suburban Sprawl
New Houses – Calgary Suburban Sprawl

An Older Syle Home in Calgary
An Older Syle Home in Calgary

As Calgary has boomed, migrants have flooded in from Europe, Asia and other Canadian cities.

Suburban development has boomed too.

Calgary’s house prices are still affordable compared with Vancouver but are almost as expensive as Toronto’s.

The city’s preferred residential areas lie in the North West and South West suburbs. These are closest to the Rockies with attractive mountain views.

The North East, where the airport is situated, and some rather industrial parts of the South East are often thought of as less favoured locations.

›› North West

We’d recommend Tuscany, Edgemont, Country Hills, Dalhousie and Rosedale as good places to begin your search for a home.

›› South West

We’d recommend West Hillhurst, Westgate and Springbank Hill as good places to begin your search for a home.

›› South East

We’d recommend McKenzie Lake and Midnapore as good places to begin your search for a home.

Each of these areas has lower than average crime rates and offer residents an above average quality of life.

Summing Up

Calgary into the Rockies
Into the Rockies

To some migrants, Calgary feels isolated – an island city in the middle of a vast prairie. Unlike Toronto, there are no other sizeable towns and cities nearby. It’s also a long way from the sea or sizeable lakes.

Most migrants, provided they can cope with the cool climate, find Calgary offers an extremely attractive lifestyle.

Calgary’s Negatives

  The long, cold winter
  The rapid thaw and slush when the warm Chinook wind blows in winter
  The short summer
  A lack of history, historical buildings, and culture
  Expensive housing compared with most other Canadian cities

Calgary’s Positives

  Low taxes
  Low unemployment
  Low crime rate
  Salaries above the Canadian average
  Clean and beautiful, with a modern, attractive downtown, a good-sized meandering river, and the rocky mountains backdrop
  The Rockies are easily accessible by car from Calgary
  Clean air
  A sunny climate – one of the sunniest in Canada – with low rainfall
  Chinook winds bringing mild days in winter
  Fantastic winter sports – with Canada Olympic Park
  Friendly people
  It’s easy to “get away from it all” into a huge province with a small population


Comments

  1. Barney Dugas says:

    Looking to move out of Palm Springs, CA. USA area in 2015 into Canada to get out of the regular fire areas and terrible heat during the summer months. Want to spend our golden years in Calgary, Alberta.

    • V.Forrester says:

      Um…… May want to spend your winters in Palm Springs and summers in Calgary, or better yet, the West Coast or Vancouver Island. Best of both.

  2. Les Robertson says:

    Calgary does get cold but dry and sunny with mild spells. The west coast of BC and Vancouver Island are damp. Very few warm days 20 or above until July. Alberta is the most comfortable weather in according to Environment Canada . Calgary has one of the milder winters of any large Canadian city Including Montreal and Ottawa. Toronto and Vancouver are warmer

    • Many communities on Vancouver Island have a mediterranean climate with much less rainfall then in Vancouver. Only the West side of Van Isle is “damp” however the majority of the population live on the drier side of the Island. The temperature will go above 20 C from May and September is usually also dry and warm.

  3. To the people relocating from Palm Springs.

    Be advised that due to its elevation and proximity to the Canadian Rockies, Calgary can have unpredictable weather. Summers can be warm but they can also be cool. Actually, Calgary is the only major city to have recorded snow in all 12 months of the year. It snowed a bit in Calgary on July 15th 1999 much to everyone’s disappointment so if you’re looking to escape the heat, be careful what you ask for!

  4. My husband has been offered a wonderful carrer opportunity which means leaving Toronto and moving to Calgary. I don’t drive (yet) how hard will this make things.

    • We moved to Cal from TO 13 years ago without a car, assuming major cities are walkable like TO was. Not so much here. Be careful finding housing that you do have close access to grocery/ schools etc. Walking in winter to get groceries was not fun ( our neighborhood didn’t have a grocery store).

  5. My husband and I are looking to move to Alberta for few years. We have a 10 months old baby. Any suggestions or advice where we should move to? I would like a safe place that I could live with my son and would like to take him to places that are baby friendly. I will really appreciate your recommendations.

  6. coffeecalgary says:

    I am totally offended by the following statement:
    “The North East, where the airport is situated, and some rather industrial parts of the South East are often thought of as less favoured locations.”
    What is so wrong with the NE? Some very good friends live in Marlborough and it is a beautiful area, close proximity to the core and many amenities. I’ve heard the northeast described as undesirable and I’m sick of it. The NE is less expensive. has lots of shopping and is just as safe as anywhere else in this city. And, if you look on a map there are many, many communities that are not near the airport. I would rather reside in a well kept,mature area with lots of trees and a great community feel than in some of the newer,sanitized, everything is the same location.

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