Help me brainstorm cities we could move to in Canada
May 1, 2020 10:24 AM   Subscribe

It's snowflake details all the way down. Only very brief coronavirus mention.

First, the coronavirus disclaimer: I realize that the world is in an incredibly uncertain time right now. It's impossible to know what will happen as a result of the coronavirus. As a result, for the purpose of this thread, assume that things will get back to some semblance of normal within 1-2 years from now. Also, assume that while there will likely be a global recession, there will be employment for experienced programmers. Obviously if any of these assumptions end up not holding then this whole question is moot, but there's no point in discussing it. Where it is relevant is if you have good reason to believe that Canada will significantly change their immigration policies. Comments like "heh, moving? in a year? impossible!" are not useful. Other comments in scope might be how this whole crisis might change perceptions towards a Chinese immigrant with an accent when speaking English.

So, I made this thread recently.

It's not necessary to read it, it's long, I'll rehash the relevant details here. Me and my wife currently live in China. I'm an American citizen, a unemployed programmer ("extended sabbatical"), with a strong CV (10 years of experience at name brand tech firms). We are trying to figure out where we want to live. Per the thread above, Canada seems like somewhere we should consider much more seriously. I am looking for help to find small cities that might make sense -- a lot of people just say Vancouver until they pass out from not breathing, but I don't think that's what we want.
(also as to why leaving China, which some people asked in that thread...tldr: Uighyr genocide; Chinese Communist Party)

Note, if you think a city in another country realllly fits, feel free to mention that. Or if you think Canada reallllly is a bad idea, also mention that. That said, this is mainly to give us fodder for more serious research, so let's focus on Canada!

I would consider Waterloo, where there are a lot of tech firms. Other than that, though, I am strongly considering working from home. I have worked from home before and liked it a lot. Also, during the quarantine I currently have barely left the house for 3 months (I went 86 days without leaving the house once and now just do short walks in our parking lot) and have been...fine. It's not ideal, but my point is, I am fine working from home. Again, if remote work is impossible to find, that sort of undermines the whole point.

Another important thing to keep in note: if we don't like somewhere...we will move. The benefit of remote work. I do need to look into how immigration would work, but I believe there is a visa (open worker visa?) that let's people in my position move to canada and then find work. But that's also out of the scope of things.

As far as my wife's the short term she will be focusing on improving her english and figuring out what she wants to do. She'd like to do something with flowers, which is an argument towards a more Halifax-sized city...too small and there will be nothing. Too large and it will violate our other requirements. She understands that it may be a while before she can find work, and we will rely on my income until she figures out what she wants to do and does it (which I fully expect could take years).

An image of our life in this mythical down:

Because it can be hard to suss out what matters and what doesn't, here is what we are imagining. I'm a programmer, working from home. She is likely working on improving her english either studying at a local school, or taking classes online and just like, heading into town to get coffee, run errands, that sort of thing. I have a dog or two that I walk regularly, maybe occasionally going the long way because there's some interesting places to walk. On weekends my wife and I go to a local cafe, where I read and she studies. Our home is a spacious 2 bedroom, or maybe a 3 bedroom something. Ideally close enough to the central area that we can walk. I don't need a lot of space, but my wife would like enough space to be able to work on flower-related projects (our house is an explosion of flowers right now -- but we like it that way).

What we want
* A small city with a central area, but it doesn't need to be large.

We went to Gouda in the Netherlands and it felt perfect. Or Visby in Gotland. I realize those are places that most people probably have never heard of it...but it is what it is. Just trying to give a sense. We don't need a large city, but ideally there will be some sort of centralized downtown with shops, cafes, restaurants, that sort of thing. That's what they shared: they were small, but had very centralized areas with some markets even, that sort of thing. I'm not sure if this exists in Canada? I don't need there to be endless variety, just you know...some places we can go to, that are nice enough.

* We want people to be nice, esp to a Chinese immigrant learning English

This is critical with my wife, who is Chinese and is still learning english (she can converse, but her grammar and pronunciation are still getting there). She is a very friendly person, with no ill-will...but she also is not the most street smart and is used to very, very safe cities. I realize that she will have to learn and adapt, but ideally I want somewhere where, on the whole, she can feel safe to be her lovely self. One of the worst things would be regular bullying because she's Chinese etc. She is super outgoing, sweet, and socially fearless (as long as she doesn't feel threatened)

* Relatively low cost of living

There go Vancouver and Toronto!

* Winter that ends, and that we can survive

Some people mentioned St John's, but while the winter is milder than in some other places, it seems to be quite long. Halifax, on the other hand, while still not the warmest place on earth, seems more manageable. On the intensity side, I think my limit is "if you forget to plug in your car it will explode," but that might not be a good one.

* Access to an airport

Doesn't have to be an international airport, though that would of course be great for my wife, but if it's a small or medium sized airport it should then be close-ish.

* Access to decent medical care

Neither of us have serious issues, but still, if we like somewhere and stick around, we want medical care. This will likely push things towards a "larger" small city

* Excellent internet

What we don't need:
* Access to a big Chinese community

When in doubt, remember that above I said that if we don't like somewhere, we will leave. I realize that my wife is a bit atypical in this regard, but she insists that she really doesn't need access to a Chinese community. Having a supermarket would be nice, of course, but we can get a lot online these days... but I mean while having access to Chinese stuff would be a huge plus for the both of us (I am fluent in Mandarin and am as big a lover of Chinese food as anyone), she is insistent that she doesn't like, need to be near Chinese people to prevent homesickness. This one is hard to predict, but working from home means that if she decides she does in fact want to be around Chinese people, we can just move to Vancouver :P I think, socially, for my wife a sense of psychological and physical safety is much more important than being around Chinese people, if that makes sense. She doesn't particularly love large cities in China either :) (though "large city" means something entirely different in China than it does in Canada) So my point here is that if there is a place where she will, on the whole, feel physical safe and can just like, converse with shop owners, she believes that will be good enough.

* Access to cultural institutions

I love museums, etc etc...but I'm fine with only having that when I travel. That's different from local culture, of course. We don't go to concerts.

Nice to haves:

* Access to nice nature

Neither of us are like, hardcore outdoorsy types...but we like nature. Nice views, nice walks, that sort of thing.

* Able to live daily life without a car

I realize this is largely a function of where we live, but that means there would be parts of the area where, if you can afford living in the denser area, you don't need to drive every day. And ideally this city would be such that

* Minimal awful insects

* Who doesn't love nice weather :)

(I know, that basically just means "BC")

Why not Toronto and Vancouver?

Mainly just because they're expensive, and I think larger than we need. We are interested in trying to live somewhere smaller, and just enjoying a low-key life full of dog and flowers. Also, Vancouver has the same "everything is getting extremely expensive and gentrifying and whose fault is it and asians buying real estate ahhh" issues that were endless in SF and NYC and I just...don't want to deal with that if I can avoid it.

Where have you considered?

A friend (a mefite!) mentioned Halifax, which seems nice, though I don't know a ton about it. I think it hits a lot of the requirements, and is probably on the upper end, size wise? Some people online said people could be mean to outsiders, but then others (esp on mefi) said that they were as nice as can be.

Aside from that, some people mentioned the Victoria area outside of Vancouver, but I haven't done much research yet. BC sounds nice though and being near Vancouver would of course have a ton of benefits, as would Waterloo being close to Toronto.
posted by wooh to Society & Culture (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Consider Guelph or London-Kitchener - both smaller cities that are pleasant, have nice outdoors. Guelph is especially charming and walkable downtown. Both have lots of good parks, safe. I haven't lived in either but have family in both.
posted by leslies at 10:46 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]

Maybe Kingston, Ontario? Though I don't know what house prices are like these days.
posted by praemunire at 10:56 AM on May 1

Depending on your definition of nice weather, it does sound like somewhere in Southern Ontario might be a good spot for you. Snow exists and winter length can vary depending on which way the wind is blowing, and the summers can be muggy, but central air is pretty ubiquitous. It's Canada's most densely populated area, full of small cities with access to airports, larger hospitals, and some nice parks and trails. Because of the density, it would also be easy to explore nearby communities and relocate somewhere that suited you better after arriving - unlike a lot of Canada where we have a few outposts with a lot of space between them. Besides Waterloo, I'd second Guelph or London and Kitchener, and throw in Burlington too.

I currently live in Victoria, and while the island is absolutely beautiful and has great weather, I personally would have stayed back in Southern Ontario for a host of reasons if I could go back in time.

If you haven't already tried it, you might also check out the Canada's Best Communities ranking tool. I take everything Maclean's says with a grain of salt, up to and including what day of the week it is, but it's still a good way to get some smaller cities on your radar to further research.
posted by northernish at 10:57 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]

I'm an American citizen, a unemployed programmer ("extended sabbatical"), with a strong CV (10 years of experience at name brand tech firms).

I do need to look into how immigration would work, but I believe there is a visa (open worker visa?) that let's people in my position move to canada and then find work.

You might start looking here. Be prepared for the rude awakening many in the US receive when they gaze north, dreaming of escape: Canada probably doesn't want you.
posted by Rash at 11:01 AM on May 1 [12 favorites]

The whole Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge corridor meets your criteria, as does nearby Guelph. I lived in one of those cities for years, and the area is generally great for that small-city vibe, and the gentrification and public transit expansion in K-W has made the area feel a lot more cosmopolitan. The car-free lifestyle might not be the easiest thing to make happen in Cambridge or Guelph, but I know people who make it work. northernish is right that there are a whole bunch of Southern Ontario communities within a 2-3-hour drive from Toronto (so, spanning from London to Kingston) that might work for you.

Halifax may be an okay fit, but I hear really mixed reviews from friends about tolerance of diversity over there, despite Halifax being something of a college town. The same goes for Victoria, BC; friends with non-fluent-English-speaking family and spouses ran into some issues there. Again, YMMV.
posted by blerghamot at 11:04 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]

Victoria does match your criteria well, and I would definitely encourage you to investigate more. I wouldn't quite describe it as "outside of Vancouver"; it's on Vancouver Island (Vancouver is not actually on Vancouver Island — confusing, I know), a ~3-hour drive and ferry ride away, so it's a bit of a journey.

You do get the occasional dump of snow to keep things feeling wintery, but for the most part winters are extremely mild (by Canadian standards) and rainy. Summers are warm (not hot) and relatively dry. It has a compact, beautiful city centre, walkable from many residential areas. Housing is not exactly inexpensive relative to the size of the city, but certainly much cheaper than Vancouver. It does have a (technically international) airport, though you'll be transferring through Vancouver for most destinations. It is very close to lots of insanely beautiful nature.

Alternatively, look into Kelowna in BC, a ~4 hour drive from Vancouver. Winters are colder and snowier, summers are hotter, wilderness is less lush than the rainforest of the coast but still gorgeous. Especially great if you happen to enjoy wine and wineries.
posted by fhangler at 11:06 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


* A small city with a central area, but it doesn't need to be large: 115k people. ish (including surrouding areas) with a clear central downtown district. 2 hours from Ottawa (capital of Canada) and 3 from Toronto (the other capital of Canada). Downtown is small but nice.

* We want people to be nice, esp to a Chinese immigrant learning English: Kingston is pretty white, but also pretty progressive. Currently has an NDP member of provincial parliament (the most-left Canadian party) and is anchored by academic institutions so many thoughtful people circulating around. I would consider it a quite safe city.

* Relatively low cost of living: affordable compared to Vancouver and Toronto.

* Winter that ends, and that we can survive: it is cold, as is all Ontario. There is a lot of snow because of the lake (it is right on Lake Ontario). That said, it is survivable and it does end.

* Access to an airport: the Kingston airport flies locally and provides access to Toronto for international flights. You can also take two trains directly to the Toronto international airport in approx 3.5 hours.

* Access to decent medical care: I have no specialized knowledge of this but it has university hospitals and regular Canadian healthcare.

* Excellent internet: not a problem.

* Access to nice nature: very easy to get out of town. Lots of parks, nature within driving distance (15 min ish) of downtown. The lake is right downtown.

* Able to live daily life without a car: if you live and work downtown, this is doable. If you live outside of downtown, this may be more difficult. It is definitely easier with a car.

* Minimal awful insects: nothing too terrible. Currently it is going through, as are all Canadian water-adjacent cities, the very short gnat season.
posted by hepta at 11:12 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]

I’m in the GTA and there are a lot of smaller towns that fit your criteria, Guelph also immediately came to mind. I have lots of friends either born in China or born to Chinese parents and yes, there is racism but it isn’t American-level racism. And there is a tonne of Chinese groceries shops etc scattered around the GTA (Markham and Richmond Hill esp but any city in the GTA has at least one). Housing costs are insane everywhere in the GTA though (rent and purchase), so be prepared to that. I would not recommend Alberta, their economy is tanking, they are the most American-lite part of Canada (individuals there are nice though!!!). When looking at towns, look to see who they elect to government - places that elect liberal or NDP tend to be more community-oriented.

I think your bigger concern will just be the immigration aspect. It is hard to immigrate to Canada in the best of times, now there is at least a six month delay as CIC has slowed things down, lots of dual Canadians have returned, and I’m not personally expecting to see a return to high immigration levels for a few years. Because our response to the Pandemic was ok (we didn’t have massive spread or hospitals over plus there is a lot of federal economic support) I think it will make us even more attractive. Plus climate change will not be quite as devastating here.

Immigration is decided at the government level, so a job offer is not the usual way in, unless you are a TFW. You can take a quiz now at CIC to senses your score and figure out where to improve to boost your score (like get your wife’s fluency up now). Canada can afford to be very choosy so reframe your thinking from “what can Canada give me” to “what can I give Canada that is unique so they choose me over the millions of others”. Good luck.
posted by saucysault at 11:19 AM on May 1 [8 favorites]

Kingston is nice, but the winters are worse than Toronto for sure. And even though there's technically an airport, it flies almost exclusively to Toronto, and in the winter those flights are often cancelled.

Maybe Kelowna or somewhere in the Okanagan? Medium sized cities, sunnier weather, friendly people, and actual airports.

Cost of living might be a bit higher than Kitchener Waterloo, but should be much more manageable than Toronto or Vancouver.
posted by reformedjerk at 11:23 AM on May 1

I spent my first 26 years in Halifax and the next 20 in Vancouver, and I'm going to endorse Halifax. Winters are messy (4-5 months of freeze-thaw cycling) and tend to start and end late, but summer and fall are lovely. The city is large enough to have everything you need and small enough that getting there isn't a huge hassle. Medical centres, post-secondary education, recreation, restaurants - all there. However, you won't get big-name concerts, broadway shows, or major league sports, so be aware if those sorts of things are important to you.

Living in the north end/south end/downtown (probably anywhere on the peninsula) is absolutely walkable. I lived there for years without a car and rarely missed having one.

I love Victoria and would also recommend it, depending on your budget. It has a similar size and vibe as Halifax, with better weather but higher housing costs.
posted by subluxor at 11:24 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]

This govt site breaks down the CIC scoring : basically, top score if you are between 20-29, no spouse (or spouse applying separately), have a PhD, speak English and French at CLB 7, have work experience in Canada, have attended post-secondary school in Canada, have a certified transferable skill with a regulatory body recognized in Canada, have a Canadian job offer and have siblings who are Canadian or PR. You are compared against all other applicants (usually in a two week block) and the top scores get offers to apply. A serious medical condition (or your spouse or children’s) will exclude you due to the universal health care.
posted by saucysault at 11:36 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]

I think you should check out Burlington ON. Close enough to Toronto, far enough to not have that big city feel. Lovely walkable downtown. Hits a lot of your points.
posted by yawper at 1:26 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]

Hm here are some scattered thoughts.

First, you don't need to worry about healthcare anywhere. As long as you're not somewhere truly remote, the healthcare will be fine. Same with internet.

When it comes to cost of living, yes, you can knock out Toronto and Vancouver. Anywhere else should probably be within the ballpark of reasonable.

When it comes to weather, you are definitely knocking out the North, northern Alberta, all of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and possibly all of the eastern provinces.

On eastern Canada: it is definitely cold to outsiders. (I say that as a person "from away" who lived there for a few years. A lot of people there have a general attitude that people who come there from somewhere else are snobs, know-it-alls, Richie Richs, city people, weaklings, pussies.. I could go on. I did not enjoy that aspect of my time there.) And specifically I don't think eastern Canada is necessarily a great place for non-white people. I was at a party once with people who had lived there for a while post-college, and two of them, who are Asian, started swapping stories about, like, people hanging out of cars yelling racist slurs at them. To be fair that was 15 years ago, but still. I would not count on your wife enjoying living there.

You probably don't want Quebec because neither of you speaks French.

That leaves British Columbia, Calgary, and parts of Ontario.

-- Kelowna is lovely but costs there are skyrocketing.
-- Victoria is lovely and seriously worth a look IMO.
-- Calgary might suit you? It is modern and quite pretty. But the economy is tanking right now.
-- Hamilton Ontario used to be gritty and blue-collar and is apparently now a wonderland of amazing restaurants and markets. I have no recent first-hand experience but that's what I hear. It's an hour from Toronto.
-- 90 minutes from Toronto are some charming small towns like Port Hope and Coburg.
-- Kingston might work.
-- Waterloo might work, but honestly in my (limited) experience it is pretty bland.

And my last suggestion is Ottawa. The Glebe neighborhood, or Little Italy, or Hintonburg. Ottawa has pretty bad winters, but otherwise I think it meets your criteria. It's walkable downtown, not outrageously expensive, has a pretty active markets-and-cafes culture, and is reasonably pretty. It has always struck me as extremely safe, it's friendly, and reasonably diverse. And, my understanding is that are more and better engineering jobs there than one might guess.

Good luck!
posted by Susan PG at 2:16 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]

Calgary might suit you? It is modern and quite pretty. But the economy is tanking right now.

Oh dear god not Calgary, and I say that as a Calgarian who quite likes it here.

Climate is perhaps the biggest deal-breaker; while winters aren't as cold as northern Alberta, much of winter is plagued by freeze-thaw cycles, and road clearing is probably going to be a lot different (read: worse) than anything you're used to in a North American city that gets snow. Also, summers here are usually short, and sometimes marred by forest fires from neighbouring BC. A lot of the weather weirdness really isn't that bad if you're an all-seasons outdoorsy person, but it can be trying if you're not.

Also, as Susan PG pointed out, the economy. Just, yeah, no. It's otherwise a lovely place that's far more welcoming to diversity than regional stereotypes imply, but Alberta in general is a Bad Idea for the foreseeable future.
posted by blerghamot at 2:59 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]

I'm canadian - I live in calgary, but I grew up in cranbrook, BC, which is in the kootenays.

my vote would be Nelson, BC for you.

It's probably smaller than what you're really looking for, but it has a better population density than most small canadian cities in the west, so it might feel SLIGHTLY more like the european cities you named than anything else we'll have to offer.

Other than that, I might say Calgary if you could manage the cost of living in Inglewood-Ramsay or Hillhurst-Kensington neighbourhoods, both of which have nice shopping/dining areas, and farmers markets. Calgary's winter is harsh, but we have a weather pattern called "chinooks" where a warm wind blows in and sometimes gives us shirt-sleeves weather in the middle of winter, or at least a break from the harshness. For illustration purposes, I ride my bicycle to work every day, which is 9km from my house. There is usually about 10 days a year that it is too cold to bike, I will bike in anything down to -20C. Also - unless you're on the coasts, winter is just harsh and long in canada, it's part of our charm. I actually found winter more unpleasant in vancouver than I do in calgary, where at least the cold is dry and doesn't penetrate your clothes.

Calgary has a decent number of chinese people and canadian-born chinese, especially in the near-downtown areas. There's probably as much chinese community available as you'd want to look for, though weirdly most of my friends only speak cantonese, not mandarin, so I'm not sure if that's just my fluky circle or if we have a stronger presence from hong kong? Calgary has a larger population than what you're looking for, but we have INSANE urban sprawl, so a lot of our population lives like 2 hours away from each other.
posted by euphoria066 at 3:16 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]

I’ll second Waterloo/Kitchener/Guelph.

I haven’t lived in Calgary but have visited a bunch of times, I personally would take Alberta’s (physical+) climate over Ontario’s any day - it is definitely cold in winter, and weird because of temp shifts, but it’s **sunny** and dry. (Here in Toronto, it’s humid in summer, and dank and dark in winter, boo. Even though winter hovers between -10 and -25C, you just can’t ever get warm, the damp just puts the chill in your bones. In Calgary you’re fine if you’re properly dressed.) The ROCKIES are right there, with Lake Louise, there’s also Drumheller... the city is just ok, not much going on, but people are super friendly.

+Politically it’s another story.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:13 PM on May 1

Ottawa deserves more attention. It’s got tons of nature and within a ten-fifteen minute drive you’re in Gatineau Park, home to gorgeous hiking and lakes. I live quite central and even here I’ve regularly seen foxes, beavers, and turkeys in my neighbourhood. I’ve even seen a turtle laying eggs in the same spot next to the river for the last two years.

The city is shockingly safe.

Beyond the civil service, the local economy is based on the tech sector.

Lots of ethnic diaspora communities here, not a city known for racism. Can’t imagine your wife would feel too out of place.

You can live centrally quite easily. I have a four-bedroom house with a backyard and can bike to work in ten minutes. I have everything I need within walking distance. House prices could be lower, but compared to Toronto and Vancouver (I will never quite understand why so many people are so gaga about Vancouver.)

The winters are garbage, but that’s Canada for you. The summers are gorgeous though. It’s a pretty outdoorsy city, lots of dogs and runners and kayakers and all that jazz.

(For context, I grew up in Calgary, where I literally saw snowfall every month of the year. I also lived for 6 or 7 years in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and one year in Toronto)
posted by fso at 5:31 PM on May 1 [4 favorites]

Even Southern Ontario has it's share of endless winter-lite weather. We're looking at the first warmish weekend of the year coming up and will then resume sub 50 degree F temperatures for the following week. I happened to be looking at the weather reports for Kyrgyzstan last week and it sounded like heaven by comparison.

Southern Ontario sucks in other ways as well. Small cities usually have a cute older downtown area but beyond that it's all big-box-shopping-plaza-land. Chain restaurants and sports bars are everywhere. You'll be living among people who are conditioned to want to go to those places. Tim Horton's always has a line up because people have a cultural attachment to coffee with a whiff of cleaning spray/chicken stock.

Small towns just outside places like London and St. Catherine’s are growing more like Republican states south of us, leaning harder and harder into all the American conservative radio propaganda and right wing Quebec(or) news media.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:20 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]

Ignoring some HUGE gaping holes in your theory of “just move to Canada it’s easy” I’d say Victoria is your best bet, given your criteria. And on a personal note, I share a lot of your desires in a place and I think Victoria is lovely. Trying to move there myself, in fact, and I’m even married to a Canadian. Still isn’t easy for an American.
posted by chuntered inelegantly from a sedentary position at 8:53 PM on May 1

Re: visas, I've looked into the open worker visa in the past, did the calculations, and I was eligible. I'm a little older now and I've now added a spouse who is not at the desired level of fluency in english, but I'm pretty sure I still qualify unless things have changed radically. I've also been talking to some people in tech (including multiple immigrants) who live in Canada and they feel that, knowing my experience and talking to people moving to canada etc, that it should be pretty doable.

And I mean if I can't get a visa, we don't move to Canada. Pretty simple. I have yet to find a country where I do not apply for skills based immigration. I will research Canada more thoroughly and will to a lawyer if we get more serious, but so it goes.
posted by wooh at 9:05 PM on May 1

I agree Guelph seems like a great option, and am surprised only one person mentioned Hamilton! I am in Burlington, which does tick many boxes, though it is BLINDINGLY white. The nice thing about Hamilton or Burlington is they on the GO line so it's easy to get to downtown Toronto for a day. There might, for instance, be better language classes for your wife, or even just access to Chinese stores, etc., that might make your wife feel more at home without having to actually live in Toronto!
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 5:01 AM on May 2

I agree with all the Hamilton, Guelph - south of Toronto suggestions and just want to add my 2 cents that you should consider Prince Edward County. The weather is nicer (and warmer) than Ottawas. Its between Toronto, Montreal & Ottawa. Has a cute downtown thats still alive and well, lots of retirees from the big cities, artists and small towners, vineyards, roadside stands of local veggies and fruit in the summer and lots of cottagers in the summers. Its beautiful there and laid back. If i could work remotely I would want access to the biggest central cities plus the nicer weather compared to Ottawa & Montreal. Picton is a town there and its not the cheapest, but its extremely nice.
posted by Ladydetective at 7:05 AM on May 2

Has OP's wife lived in a place where there's lots of snow and cold?

Cold weather can be a grind when there's freezing rain, slush puddles, or when the air hurts your face when you leave the house because it's cold. So if you're moving to a new country and you don't have a regular place to go to, you could feel a bit trapped inside by the weather if you're not used to it.

Victoria's weather is pretty mild, so the weather wouldn't be a problem.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:10 AM on May 2

Immigration to Canada change radically in January 2015, just keep that in mind when comparing others’ experiences, online advice, or your prior scores.
posted by saucysault at 7:15 AM on May 2

A plus for either of the coasts is not having that sticky muggy heat throughout the summer. The winters also aren't as cold - climate change shifting the winter weather toward freeze-thaw cycles and more ice than snow is a pain, however.
posted by eviemath at 4:27 PM on May 2

I have lived in several parts of Canada and visited all of them many times (save for the territories, where my experience is limited). I would echo the folks up above who suggest Burlington and Hamilton ON, Hamilton in particular. It is where I was raised and is a very blue collar city only if you are planning to move to 1986. In the last twenty years it has undergone a huge artistic renaissance, partly because the housing prices in Toronto you cite have driven away many artists and musicians from the 416, not a few of them an hour down the road to Hamilton (occasionally touted as the Brooklyn to Toronto's Manhattan). There is some upward pressure on housing prices in Hamilton, of course, but as a rough estimate, you'd pay about 30-40% of the cost for a comparable house compared to what you would in Toronto. I say this based on a bit of browsing just now on some real estate sites.

I am the first to say it doesn't have precisely the oomph that Toronto does, but downtown Toronto is an hour away by bus or train. I certainly have done plenty of TO-based socializing and cultural activities in Toronto while living out in 905, and in several stretches have worked in once city while living in the other.

It ticks just about all of your boxes: all the things you are looking for are pretty much the things that I look for as well.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:31 PM on May 2

I just want to thank everyone. A lot of excellent suggestion. I appreciate particularly the smaller cities in Ontario -- I think that's going to be the main area of research, as it seems to give us everything we want and need!
posted by wooh at 11:31 PM on May 2 [1 favorite]

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