This article was written in partnership with HSBC Canada.
Tony and Patrick are both newcomers to Canada from Ireland. Tony and Patrick are both renters. And Tony and Patrick have lived in multiple cities across Canada. However, that’s where the similarities end. While Tony, the rugged pioneer, has traveled west and set up base in beautiful B.C. after a few years living in Toronto, Patrick has made bilingual Montreal his Canadian home.
Given the unique perspectives that Tony and Patrick have acquired, their experiences can give you some key insights on renting and other factors that make up a decision of where to live in Canada. We asked the guys the important questions to help you decide which city might be right for you. We hope you enjoy it!Tony Gilmore (TG): So, Patrick can you tell me a little bit about why you decided to move to a city that has over four months of winter each year and the only Canadian province where English isn’t even an official language?
Patrick Bourke (PB): Good question, Tony. Sure, Quebec is a predominantly French-speaking province, but Montreal is most definitely a vibrant, bilingual city. And yes, Montreal is pretty cold from the months of December through March, but we also get some sizzling hot summers (perfect for enjoying a beer during the tam-tams), and beautiful Autumn evenings. Above all else, however, is the fact that Montreal is a beautiful and culturally rich city, with an abundance of festivals, including the world famous Jazz Fest, Just for Laughs Comedy Festival and Osheaga Music Festival, as well as food markets and sporting activities to engage in every single week, even in winter!
Does that not sound appealing to you?
TG: Undoubtedly, there are many benefits to living in Montreal but Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in all of North America. In 2018 it was voted the sixth most liveable city in the world. Living in Vancouver has allowed me to greatly improve my skiing and snowboarding skills without having to travel far to do so. I love nothing more than waking up on a Saturday morning and making a quick plan go for a ski after lunch. And with Whistler, Squamish and Cypress Mountain all nearby, this is so easy to do!
What’s more, Vancouver is located in perfect proximity to the most pristine forests, incredible mountains, and the rugged Pacific coastline. When I lived in Toronto, I had a busy working life and enjoyed the fast-paced environment for a while but all I did at the weekend was eat and drink. The closest I got to outdoor activities was sitting on the patio of the latest downtown bar or gelato place on a Sunday afternoon. As you can imagine, life is very different in B.C and I’ve shed some pounds to prove it. Nonetheless, if nightlife and socializing is important to you, I found there tended to be more parties and cultural events going on in Toronto than Vancouver but it really depends what you’re into, I guess.
Moving2Canada (M2C) verdict on culture, glamour or nature: There is no doubt that Montreal’s plethora of festivals and general joie de vivre (that’s French!) are a major selling point, while Toronto’s cosmopolitan feel is a massive draw for many people looking for the glitz and glamour of a big-city life. However, for its sheer breadth of natural landscapes and jaw-dropping scenery, Vancouver narrowly shades it on this one — despite the fact that Uber and Lyft will only arrive on the streets of Vancouver from December 2019.
M2C: But what about rent in Canada, guys? Where is the best value and quality found?
PB: Montreal is one of the cheapest big cities in North America to rent a home. In fact, a recent report indicates that the average price of a one-bedroom apartment in Montreal is $800 dollars cheaper per month than an equivalent property in Vancouver, and almost $900 less than one in Toronto.
Moreover, there are many protections for renters in Montreal that don’t exist elsewhere in Canada. For instance, Quebec is the only Canadian province where landlords cannot legally ask for a security deposit from tenants before moving in. Finally, the process of paying rent in Montreal is pretty straightforward; all you need is a Canadian bank account and you can pay directly using the convenient Interac system.
Anything to say about that?
TG: Firstly, many renters in Vancouver and Toronto also pay rent using Interac, so having a Candian bank account is all you need to do that here too. When it comes to rent prices there’s no doubt that Vancouver is pricey, and Toronto is even worse. Demand often exceeds supply, especially in sought-after areas like East Van or Queen West. That’s why an abundance of patience, or a wide network of friends, is always helpful when you’re looking for a place to live in either of these cities.
Personally speaking, I have found the search and cost of renting in Vancouver to be a little more palatable than in Toronto, but it’s not cheap by any means, especially if you’re looking to embrace that “condo-life”. Now that I’ve left Toronto a couple of years, if I was to rent my old place back it would be nearly double the price.
That said, if you prepare properly, consult this helpful renting guide and choose your neighbourhood carefully then it will be far easier for you to find a great, or at least somewhat affordable, place to live in either city.
With hindsight, something like the HSBC Newcomers Program would have been particularly helpful when I first arrived in Canada, if only I had known about it. I actually lost a dream apartment I was hoping to rent because I couldn’t send the deposit quickly enough to the landlord. I had to transfer money from back home in the UK which took a few days, it was devastating. In Canada, you need to be in a position to move like the wind here when you find a place that you like. So, my top tip in terms of finding your dream place in Canada is to make sure you have a banking package like HSBC’s Newcomer Program set up. I now use Interac e-Transfer to pay my rent on an ongoing basis which is super convenient.
Finally, if you are a HSBC customer in another part of the world then you will benefit even more from the HSBC Newcomers Program in Canada. This is because HSBC offers a service called “Global view”, which is a big draw for people who already have HSBC accounts in other countries, and makes accessing and transferring money between your personal HSBC accounts worldwide simple. In essence, it makes your world wide finances lightning fast.Moving2Canada verdict on rental costs: Regardless if you are renting in Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal, it pays to be as prepared as possible. Kijiji is king in Montreal but Craigslist and Facebook Market reign supreme in Toronto and Vancouver. Also, knowing that in Montreal no security deposit is required before you move in, while in Toronto you’re more likely to be asked for a first and last month’s rent, and that half of one month will suffice in Vancouver is vital information to have at hand.
All things considered, renting is typically far cheaper in Montreal than it is in Vancouver and Toronto, and more tenant protections also exist. This means that it is definitely easier for newcomers, especially families, to find their ideal rented home after arriving in Canada, and for that reason we have to give this one to Montreal.
M2C: And last but not least, what about the food?
PB: Montreal has some of the best French cuisine in North America, and also has many delicious Greek, Middle-Eastern and Carribean restaurants. The Jean Talon and Atwater markets are two of the busiest permanent food markets in Canada, and there’s a plethora of fine dining and budget eateries to choose from. Montreal is also home to the world’s best bagels — you just have to choose between Fairmount and St. Viateur.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the poutine! Do they even have delicious poutine in Toronto or Vancouver?
TG: Yes, there is great poutine in Toronto and Vancouver, but we also have some of the best sushi that Canada has to offer. As well as sushi, the significant Asian populations in Vancouver mean that our Chinatowns — there’s more than one — are ranked among the best in North America, some say it’s even as good as the food in mainland China.
However, having lived in both cities, I have to say that the sheer range of food that’s available in Toronto is unrivalled to any other Canadian city I’ve lived in. Whether you are looking for late-night pizza, Dim Sum Chinese food or the best Thai noodles you’ve ever tasted, it’s all here. What’s more, the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto is one of the best I’ve ever been to.
Moving2Canada verdict on foodie cities: There is no doubt that Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver all have a wide range of culinary delights on offer. And it is also clear that they are all far better food cities because of the many immigrants that call each city home. However, for the sheer range of options, we feel that Toronto deserves the top prize in this important category.
OK, that’s it! As you can see from Tony and Patrick’s experiences, renting, and life in general, is quite different in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, with many perks to all three cities. Nonetheless, when it comes to renting in either of these urban centres, you will give yourself the best chance of finding a new home when you are as prepared as possible. This means making sure to have your Social Insurance Number (SIN) and Canadian bank account sorted soon after you arrive, having a clear budget that you wish to spend on rent each month, and doing the proper research in terms of the neighbourhood that you are moving to.
Best of luck!