WES teamed up with the Newcomer Centre of Peel and its Rural Employment Initiative program to showcase in a recent webinar the opportunities and lifestyles in small to medium-sized towns and villages in Canada.
According to Statistics Canada, 70 percent of immigrants settle in five major cities: Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, and Edmonton. However, there are crucial labour market needs outside of urban centres. Smaller communities need fresh talent to ensure their long-term economic growth, and many are devising targeted marketing campaigns to attract immigrants.
Statistics Canada determines the official size of a community by the community’s population: A small community has a population between 1,000 and 29,999—like Nelson, British Columbia; a medium-sized population centre has between 30,000 and 99,000—such as Moncton, New Brunswick; and a large urban centre has a population of 100,000-plus. Cities like Saskatoon and Guelph, and larger areas like Halifax and Quebec City, are all considered large.
Life in a smaller community can be rewarding, especially for newcomers to Canada. It can offer important benefits like less competition for jobs, a slower pace, and a greater sense of community.
For those looking to own their own home, houses and land are much more affordable in small and medium-sized towns and cities. Before moving to a smaller population centre, however, ask yourself, what is right for me? What is right for my family? What you need to consider may vary based on your priorities, interests, and hobbies. Below are the most common practical concerns.
First, consider the community’s major industries and employers. Do they have a demand for your skills and experience? Outside of major cities there are some talent shortages, but do your research first to see if you have the skills that local employers need. With fewer candidates vying for any given role, the likelihood increases of your being considered and ultimately hired.
If you would like to own a home, small to medium-sized communities can offer more affordable options. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association’s National Price Map, the average home price in the Greater Toronto area is $768,400 CAD; compare that with the cost of a home in Windsor-Essex County: $305,983 CAD. On the other hand, you will most likely rent a home during your first few months in Canada. If you are heading to a smaller community, keep in mind that it will have fewer rental units, and what is available may be more difficult to find. However, major cities offer lots of rental options.
When considering a major move, you will want to look into the daily logistics of what your life will be like, such as how you will get around. Most medium-sized centres will have a public transportation system; smaller communities may not. Review bus routes in relation to where you plan to live and work, and the location of grocery stores, schools, and other important places.
If public transportation is not an option in your community, how will you get to work? This is another question to consider before you move.
If you are interested in furthering your education, explore local colleges and universities and see whether they offer programs of interest. If you have children, you will need to find out the proximity of schools and childcare centres. If in-person study is not an option in your chosen community, determine whether online programs could meet your professional and academic needs.
Consider the availability of health care providers and the distance you may need to travel to the nearest hospital. Are there nearby medical professionals who can address your health care needs—now and in the future?
Smaller communities are less diverse than large urban centres. Ask yourself whether living near others from your home country is important to you. Smaller communities offer other benefits, however. For example, people tend to know everyone in town and have closer relationships. You may appreciate the bonds of a close-knit community; however, others may not.
If you missed the webinar, which looks more closely at the above considerations within the context of the northern Ontario community of Sudbury, Ontario, you can watch it now. We also hear from a Cambridge, Ontario, employer, Rockwell Automation, which is seeking newcomer applicants and working with the Rural Employment Initiative to attract them.