Calgary is the largest city in Alberta and the third largest city in Canada. It sits at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where the Elbow and Bow rivers meet.
Alberta is experiencing its largest population increase ever, and many people are now calling Calgary their new home. If you're considering a move to Calgary, you might have some burning questions. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of living in Calgary to help you better understand what to expect when moving here.
Pros of Moving to Calgary - North America’s Most Liveable City
In 2022, Calgary was ranked the number one city to live in Canada and the 3rd Most Liveable City in the World. Calgary ranks among the top cities in Canada when it comes to healthcare, culture, environment and stability. It is unique due to its low sales taxes, work opportunities, proximity to the Rockies and being rated the cleanest city in the world. If you are a Canadian resident looking to move, or a newcomer to Canada, read on to see why you might consider making Calgary your new home!
Financial and Work Benefits
Low Cost of Living
Did you know Alberta offers lower costs of living and higher salaries? Alberta offers the highest median after-tax income in Canada. Consumer prices, including rent, in Calgary are 12.95% lower than in Toronto and 16.35% lower than in Vancouver. For a more in depth look, you can read our article comparing the cost of living in Calgary to other Canadian cities.
Low Sales Tax
Another financial benefit of living in Calgary is that Alberta does not have a provincial sales tax. That’s right, if you move to the province you’ll only pay a 5% Federal Goods and Services Tax; which means more money in your pocket compared to other provinces! In other provinces such as Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, you pay up to 15% in sales taxes (combined Federal & Provincial rate).
Real Estate / Rental Prices
Calgary offers some great value for residents looking to either purchase or rent their home. In general, prices are much lower than other major cities such as Toronto and Vancouver.
Price per square meter to buy an apartment (condo) in the city center is 62.85% less than Toronto and 64.13% less than Vancouver. If you're interested in looking at some new homes and condos in the Calgary area, you can visit the Minto Communities Calgary home page.
If you’re looking to rent a 1 bedroom in the city center, it will cost you about $1,546.50 a month. This is $837,79 less than the average 1 bedroom rental in Toronto. If you're interested in looking at some rental options in the Calgary area, visit our Apartments site to see the current vacancies.
Great Place to Work
Calgary is full of job opportunities! It is home to 118 of Canada’s largest corporate headquarters, a thriving film industry and is the center of Canada’s oil and gas industry. Calgary also attracts people with a thriving entrepreneurial spirit and has one of the highest rates of self-employment in Canada. Another fun fact about Calgary, there are more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in Canada.
While you might already be familiar with Calgary’s oil and gas ties, the city has recently shifted to be regarded as a tech hub, welcoming some big names like Google, Amazon, and IBM. In the coming years, it is estimated that $7.5 billion will be spent in digital transformation technologies such as big data, cloud, blockchain and more. These funds will be allocated within aerospace, agribusiness, creative industries, energy & environment, financial services, interactive digital media, life sciences, technology and transportation and logistics.
Top employers in Calgary include:
- Imperial Oil Limited
- Suncor Energy
- Shaw Communication
- Calgary West Central Primary Care Network
- Canadian Pacific Railway
- Enbridge Inc.
- University of Calgary
- Western Financial Group Inc.
- Calgary Police Service
- Workers’ Compensation Board
See the full list of Alberta’s Top 75 Employers, many of which are hiring in Calgary.
Things to Do and Activities in Calgary
Calgary is a great destination for those who love the outdoors, and many activities can be enjoyed without leaving the city center!
Canada Olympic Park was built in 1988 to host that year’s Winter Olympics, and opened to the general public on July 1st, 2011. The park welcomes 1.2 million visitors each year, including professional athletes and winter enthusiasts. You can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, skating, bobsledding, inner tubing, mountain biking, ziplining, summer bobsleigh, mini golf and more. Now referred to as WinSport, it offers a range of food and beverage options and also hosts entertainment events. This park is the perfect destination for adventure seekers.
Calgary’s communities are connected by the most extensive urban pathway and bikeway network in North America which amounts to 1000 km of regional pathways and 96 km of trails. These multi-use pathways can be used for cycling, walking, running and in-line skating. You will also discover nearly 20,000 acres of parkland to explore within the city. Prince’s Island Park and Fish Creek are two of the most popular parks frequented by locals.
Proximity to the Rockies
Calgary is located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, just an hour's drive away, and you can enjoy views of the majestic and heavily glaciated mountains throughout the city. Once in the Canadian Rockies, start by visiting Banff National Park. Here you can ski, hike, snowboard, mountain climb… the list goes on. This UNESCO World Heritage site is full of dramatic peaks, diverse wildlife and gem-coloured bodies of water.
Calgary is home to world renowned festivals and events, including the: Calgary International Film Festival, Calgary Folk Music Festival and High Performance Rodeo, to name but a few. Calgary also hosts what is billed to be “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”; the Calgary Stampede! It’s the world’s biggest outdoor rodeo and has over one million attendees every year! The Stampede takes place every year for 10 days in July and the entire city gets involved - you’ll want to dust off your western wear and get all gussied up for this. The festivities include a kick-off parade, stage shows, concerts, agricultural competitions, Indigenous exhibitions and more.
Great Things About Calgary in General
It may come as a shock but Calgary is one of the sunniest cities in Canada. That’s right, this Alberta hub averages over 2300 hours of sunshine per year. You can enjoy the sun all year round, but in the summer Calgary’s low humidity levels makes it particularly nice to get outside and soak up the sun.
One of the Cleanest Cities in the World
Calgary is known to be the cleanest city in the world! It has gained this stellar reputation due its minimal air pollution, clean sewage system and safe water drinkability. On top of this, there are heavy fines for littering (up to $1000), major roads are cleaned every spring (around 15,000 kilometers of roads) and there is a great disposal program in place. Furthermore, Calgary is one of the few places in the world without a rat population! This is thanks to Alberta’s excellent rat control program, in place since the 1950s.
Easy to Get Around
Calgary Transit provides affordable and accessible transportation options within the city. It includes a light rail train system (C-train) and bus routes. A monthly pass costs $103 or is $3.30 for a one-way ticket. You can get up to date bus and train times by downloading the Transit app.
The Plus 15 Skywalk makes traveling in the winter easy! This indoor walkway system spans 16 kilometers in length and is the largest covered skywalk in the world. The footbridges are 15 feet above ground and connect major buildings in the city center. Check out the Plus 15 Map!
Come spring time, you can find locals traveling around the city on rented e-scooters and e-bikes. The zippy rides are fun, quick, and convenient. Scooters and bikes can be found around the city and all you have to do is book one using an app on your phone and cruise away.
Young and Diverse Population
According to Life In Calgary, the median age of Calgary residents is 37.2 years old, making it one of the youngest cities in Canada. There are two major universities in the city, Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary, which draw about 50,000 students annually. The Economist Intelligence Unit also rated Calgary the third most diverse city in Canada with over 120 different languages spoken.
Great Health Care
In 2018, Alberta Health Services was rated as one of the top five most integrated systems in the world. Alberta has an excellent health care plan called the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) and is free for residents. It covers a list of necessary medical and health care services, including home care! You are entitled to this coverage if you are:
- legally entitled to be in and remain in Canada and make your permanent home in Alberta
- committed to being physically present in Alberta for at least 183 days in any 12-month period
- not claiming residency or obtaining benefits under a claim of residency in another province, territory or country
- any other person deemed by the regulations to be a resident or temporary resident, not including a tourist, transient or visitor to Alberta
If you are not covered by AHCIP, Alberta offers a multitude of private health insurance options which can be considered upon arrival.
Cons of Moving to Calgary
There are cons to living in Calgary, just like any other city. Traffic congestion, overcrowding in schools and long cold winters are all potential reasons for not moving to Calgary.
Calgary ranked 10th amongst Canadian cities for traffic congestion, right behind Hamilton Ontario. In addition, out of 8,140 Calgarians polled, nearly 5,700 said they were dissatisfied with travel times, with more than two-thirds reporting they experienced delays always or most of the time. Despite this, Calgary’s traffic congestion isn’t as bad as other major metropolitan cities in Canada. Furthermore, efforts are being made to improve traffic in Calgary, including the construction of the Calgary Ring Road, an expansive highway circling the city.
Overcrowding in Some Schools
Overcrowding in schools has been an issue in Calgary for years due to decreasing teacher numbers, increasing student enrollment and lack of funding. The population has risen at an exponential rate and unfortunately the development of new schools and/or renovations of existing schools has not kept pace. It’s possible that your child may not be able to attend a school in your area due to classroom size restrictions. If this is the case, your child would have to travel further to go to school. The provincial government is aware of this issue and is looking to address it. In 2021, for example, the Alberta government provided $42 million to students from kindergarten to grade 3 to address gaps in education.
When moving to Calgary, it's important to understand that you’ll experience true Canadian winters; which may be a turn off for some. Winters in Calgary often include more than one hundred snowy days and subzero temperatures. As mentioned above, the Plus 15 Skywalk is a great option for travel within the city center and staying warm. Further to that, Calgary experiences a weather phenomenon a few times in the winter called a chinook. Chinook winds bring warm wind in from the mountains, giving Calgarians brief breaks from cold snaps in the winter.
So Should You Move to Calgary?
We feel there are a lot more pros than cons to living in Calgary (although we are biased). It’s clean, there are countless outdoor activities, it financially makes sense, and there are loads of things to do (e.g. Calgary Stampede). If you’re still unsure of whether you want to make the move, take a trip to Calgary and explore the city for yourself! The Calgary International Airport is only a 20 minute drive from the city center... just another pro to add to your list!