US & Canada

Keen to move to Canada? Here are some things to consider

The Canadian Rockies in the Banff National Forest 30 November, 2006 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tempted?

At first it was the Americans. A record number of people in the US searched on Google for how to move to Canada after Donald Trump won seven out of 11 Republican primaries on Super Tuesday in March.

More recently people in the UK have been joining the party. In the days after Britain voted to leave the European Union by 52% to 48%, Google searches for "move to Canada" hit an all-time high.

Although many voters are looking forward to their country leaving EU regulations behind, other disillusioned Brits began considering a future abroad. And according to Simon Rogers, data editor for Google News Lab, one of the top options was Canada.

No doubt some will be attracted by the country's breathtaking scenery and wide-open spaces (it is the second largest country in the world). Canadians are famous for being friendly to strangers, and the government prides itself on being welcoming to immigrants. And then there is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who has been winning fans worldwide with press-ups, photos with pandas and knowledge of quantum computing.

But surely there are some drawbacks?

Many of those surveyed for this BBC article made it clear they thought Canada was a great place to be.

But here are a few aspects of life in the country that might just make some Brits and Americans think twice about a move.


Bugs

It should come as no surprise that areas of Canada can get very cold in the winter - temperatures can drop to -40C (-40F) with severe wind chills.

But even when the weather gets warmer there is another reason in some places to stay inside.

As well as non-biting midges, Canada has dozens of species of mosquitoes across its territories which have adapted to the harsh climate.

Image copyright Twitter

"When I moved here, nobody mentioned the mosquitoes," says Ollie Williams, a BBC Sport reporter who relocated to Canada's Northwest Territories in 2014.

"I had no idea.... For some reason, I had in mind that a place that's frozen for more than half the year can't be home to bloodthirsty insects the size of your thumb.

"I was very wrong about this. It turns out the mosquitoes just cryogenically freeze themselves all winter, then pop back out in spring, ready to obliterate all exposed skin when you try to take the dog out at night."


Cost of living

It is something Americans will be well-accustomed to, but Brits could get a "mild surprise" when they see the extra charges such as sales tax and gratuity added to their bill, says Ollie Williams.

"Whatever price you see printed is lower than the price you are going to end up paying at the till," he says. "Why inflict this maths exercise on the population? Why not just tell us the final price on the label as is the case in the UK?"

Meanwhile the price of daily groceries is dependent on how the Canadian dollar is performing against the US dollar. Since the majority of fruit and vegetables consumed in Canada are imported, they are vulnerable to currency fluctuations.

The cost of fresh produce "skyrocketed" at the start of 2016, says Rob Carrick, personal finance columnist at Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper. "People were shocked about how much they were spending."

Since then prices have levelled out, he says, but there are other areas where new arrivals may feel the pinch.

Americans would find petrol more expensive, despite Canada being a major oil producer, with a litre costing about US $0.91 compared to US $0.67 in the US. But people from the UK, where a litre of petrol costs about US $1.45, would be more likely to be surprised by the cost of beer, wine and spirits, which - like petrol - is heavily taxed. Depending where you are in Canada, liquor laws also restrict where alcohol can be bought and consumed.


Housing market

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The average price of a house in Toronto has increased by nearly 17% in a year

Soaring housing prices in the cities of Vancouver and Toronto are making ownership unattainable for more and more people. And concern is growing that the housing bubble could crash. In April, Canada's national housing agency said nine of the country's 15 largest housing markets were showing signs of being overvalued.

The average price of properties in Vancouver rose more than 32% in the past year to $917,800 (US $700,000; £550,000) the Real Estate Board Of Greater Vancouver said this month.

And the Toronto Real Estate Board said in June that the average price of a house in Toronto had increased by nearly 17% in a year to $775,400 (£460,000).

"Two of the most interesting cities to live in have extraordinarily expensive housing markets," says Rob Carrick.

"There are enough really affluent people to buy these properties, but lower and middle-class people are getting increasingly priced out."

For comparison, the average house price in the UK's most expensive city, London, was about £472,384 in June, a 9.9% increase on the previous year.

Some experts say economic fallout from the UK's Brexit vote could bring more foreign buyers to Canada and sustain the rapid growth. But for many people in the country the prospect of owning a place is getting further and further away.


Some reasons why people DO move there

  • Healthy lifestyles
  • Scenery
  • Friendly reputation
  • LGBT rights
  • Longer maternity leave
  • Opportunities for women (even the cabinet is gender balanced)

Inequality

Wealth is increasingly concentrated among the super-rich. In Canada, the average income of the top 10% of earners is 8.6 times higher than that of the bottom 10%, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The gap between rich and poor is not as wide as in the UK and the US, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to tackle the issue in his election campaign last year.

His government's first budget included a tax cut for people earning between about $45,000 and $90,000, but critics have urged him to do more.

Meanwhile reports of mass suicide attempts in the First Nations community of Attawapiskat in Ontario in April brought renewed attention to the high levels of poverty and isolation experienced by Canada's 1.4 million indigenous people.


PM still proving himself

Image copyright Canada government
Image caption Mr Trudeau's star appeal is seen as both a positive and a negative

Justin Trudeau was elected on a wave of so-called Trudeau-mania, and in the nine months since, his international popularity has shot up.

Much of the media attention has focused on the 44-year-old's athleticism and photogenic appeal. And despite some hiccups - including unusually strong criticism after he "manhandled" an MP, and accidentally elbowed another - his popularity remains high.

But commentators say it is too early to tell how successful he will be at governing the country.

"He has a 'pretty boy' image to shake off," says Canadian writer and blogger Lauren Messervey. "In my opinion, this has been more to his detriment than to his success.

"Trudeau has had to take himself to task and prove to governing officials, public opinion, and international leaders that he is more than just a pretty face.

"So far, in regards to his flair for inspiring people to the edge of excitement, he has been doing quite an excellent job. Then again, time will tell on his power as a governing official."

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