Canada is a vast country which is often over shadowed by it’s the neighbor, the United States of America. Unknown to many, Canada is actually the second largest country in the world by land mass, and is one of the top 10 economies (by size) in the world. Hence there is plenty of room for the growing number of Expats deciding to live in Canada.
In what some may find surprising, the country was original inhabited by the aboriginal tribes commonly associated with Australia, although the country has very strong links with the UK and France, hence English and French are stated as the two main languages of the country. According to Wikipedia in 2009, the founding of Canada stems from the first fishing outposts set up by the English in Newfoundland.
Canada is well known for the mounted police force, the “mounties”, and offers some of the most beautiful and relatively untouched natural scenery seen anywhere in the world. Often thought of as a “poor cousin” of the USA, Canada has been able to remain stable despite the economic turbulence felt worldwide.
The culture of Canada is vast and complicated with strong ties to both the UK and France – in fact Canada is still part of the Commonwealth, with Queen Elizabeth II still the head of state.
Due to the close vicinity of the USA, Canada is also heavily influenced by US culture with TV and media holding great influence and sway over Canadian life. The government still hold a major influence over many areas of business, with a wide array of provincial owned businesses used to promote the diverse culture and attractions of the country. The Canadian population is also heavily into sports, with Ice Hockey as one of the country’s most successful exports, along with Lacrosse.
The population of Canada is dominated by the English (20.2%), Scottish (14%) and Irish (12.9%) although there are also strong contingents of Germans (9.3%), Italians (4.3%) with smaller communities of Chinese, Ukranian and other Asians.
Canada has a thriving economy which is centered on the country’s vast array of natural energy resources and mineral reserves, including Oil, Gas, Gold, Nickel and Lead. The country also has substantial aeronautics, automobile and space industries which seem to work in tandem with the requirements of the US – with which Canada has a complicated trade agreement called the North American Free Trade Agreement.
While the Canadian economy is not as strong and varied as the US economy, it is stronger than many European counterparts having shown great improvements over recent times. This recent prosperity has been connected to the growth of the manufacturing and service sectors, which have reduced the country’s dependence on more traditional markets of the past. While there is a degree of government intervention within the labour markets, this is no where near the levels seen in mainland Europe. Canada actively promotes a free market approach to business, although there are employment protection laws to cover employee and employers alike. As of July 2009, the unemployment rate is unchanged at 8.6%, as fewer people participated in the labor market.
As the country continues to embrace technological and businesses changes in a forthright and structured manner, many do not expect any meaningful increase in the rate in the foreseeable future.
The Canadian tax system ensures that tax is deducted at source, and while the rates vary among the various groups of society, nearly everyone will contribute to the provincial budget in some shape or form. After receiving clearance to work in Canada, and contributing to the taxation system, a resident will become entitled to draw from a range of benefit payments as and when appropriate.
As with most developing and advancing nations there are a number of property hot spots, often centered around the popular employment areas. Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal seem to be the places of choice for many foreign nationals, due to the strong and varied local economies. Recent reports indicate that Toronto and Ottawa leas the list of increasing property sales above all the other cities in increasing property sales in 2009. Employment prospects are also higher in these growing areas of Canada.
Canada has historically been a rental focused market, although favorable interest rates and lending terms have seen this turn around, with many people looking to acquire property rather than rent. The country has an excellent infrastructure that has allowed many workers to purchase properties further out of the city, taking advantage of the non-premium pricing away from the hot spots.
The property market has recently experienced a slump and while there are signs that the market is recovering, the long-term prospects are all but good. The change from a rental-based country to one of outright purchase should help to stabilize the property market in the short term, and the ever-growing influx of foreign nationals should take up any of the “slack” from local investors.
The Canadian state benefits system is split into two sections, with the Federal government in overall control and individual provincial authorities helping to shape various payments at the ground level. Due to the vast size of the country, the continued success, manageable unemployment rates and dependence on provincial benefits differ from province to province.
The overall government benefit budget has recently come under pressure with a variety of spending initiatives leading to a tightening of the immediate fiscal policy. This program by the government to be undertaken is providing $500 million over the next two years from 2009 to stimulate the growth of the economy, such as training and other programs for employment purposes. Canadian residents are eligible for the full variety of benefits including unemployment initiatives, income support, pensions and healthcare to name but a few. The government has recently introduced a means testing of benefit claims, with the intention of diverting more funding to areas of real need.
Historically in the shadow of the neighboring US, Canada has recently broken free and is now becoming a major economic power in its own right. Even though wealth and employment are spread unevenly throughout the country, this is most definitely a country that is on the verge of realizing development potential. As energy prices continue to rise on the open market, the reserves of the Canadian government should receive a welcome top up. This will in turn lead to further internal investment and employment / business initiatives.
While the climate is obviously not as welcoming as the likes of Spain and Portugal for example, the multi-cultural basis of Canadian society offers a welcoming and potentially lucrative resting place for many foreign nationals. Many expats praise the high heavens, such as this testimonial August 11, 2009 in the Canada Expat Forum as:
“the following cities Vancouver has (some) night life and access to the slopes but is super expensive;
Calgary has the work and access to the slopes but is not famous for night life;
Toronto has the work and night life, but limited access to the slopes (you would need to drive over an hour north to Collingwood);
Montreal actually would meet the bill for skiing and night life, but without being able to speak French, he could face some challenges…”
Ultimately, Vancouver is the choice as indicated in Canada Expat Forum last March 30. 2009:
“Vancouver is like the most awesome place I have ever lived.”
Capital : Ottawa
Official Language : English, French
Government : Parliamentary Democracy and Federal Constitution, with a Governor General and Prime Minister
Size : 9,984,670 km2
Population : 32.8 million
Currency : Canadian Dollar
International Dialling Code : +1
Economy : 9th largest in the world
Religion : Catholic
Useful Links on Canada
Detailed City Profiles
A good source of information for Canadian cities/towns (weather, demographic, employment, etc.)