Living in Calgary Pros and Cons
There are some benefits to moving to Calgary. The Economist has listed it as the fifth most livable city for seven years in a row. The top features of the city include healthcare, education, and stability. The nickname ‘Cowtown’ may not be enticing, but the reasons below should give you the reason to consider living in Calgary.
The Benefits to Living in Calgary
Calgary has been ranked by Forbes as the cleanest city in the world and has also been given the same title from Mercer Global Financial. The city has amazing sewage systems, little to no air pollution and readily available clean and drinkable water. The main reason the city stays so clean is thanks to the hefty littering fines. A small cigarette butt can cost you up to $1000. Additionally, there are numerous recycling programs, and the city cleans most streets every spring (not just the major ones).
- Lower Sales Tax
Living here means there is no provincial sales tax. The only thing you need to worry about is the 5% federal Goods and Services Tax. Even this rate is low when you compare it to the 15% of Ontario or Quebec. You spend less on your groceries, entertainment, and clothing so your savings can start to increase.
- Less Exposure to the Elements
The Plus 15 Skywalk is located 15 feet above the ground and provides a beautiful covered walkway for pedestrians. Over 16km in length is the world’s largest collection of footbridges between buildings. It has been under review because it prohibits pedestrians from being on downtown streets. It is an excellent benefit for those days where you need to step out during the winter.
- Excellent Public Transport
There is a reasonably reliable network of trains and buses to transport people to and from the downtown area. The CT trains are powered by electricity from local wind farms and help to keep the city clean. Carbon dioxide emissions have been reduced by over 56,000 tonnes since 2012. There are park-and-ride services for both trains and buses which offer no charge plug-ins for block heaters. This is beneficial in the colder months, to help your car get started after sitting all day in winter weather. Public transport is affordable with an average round trip fare to downtown Calgary being $1.63
- Simple to find Doctors
During the earlier expansion of Calgary, it is hard to locate a family doctor. Now there are 141 physicians per 100,000 people in the population, compared to the national average of 115. If you have an Alberta Health Insurance plan most of your healthcare is free. You may face a waiting period to get accepted to a free service, so it is worth looking into before you move to the area. You can also get your private insurance during the wait time if it is a real necessity.
- The Great Outdoors
Calgary’s location in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains makes it perfect for any outdoor lover. The Canada Olympic Park is used by professional athletes and the public alike where you can slide down hills, ski and snowboard. During the summer you can enjoy mountain bike trails and zip-lines. The 8,000 hectares of parkland is ideal for any avid runner or cyclist and you are guaranteed the best network of urban pathways in North America. Nearby locations like Banff offer great downhill skiing as does Jasper which is about 5 hours away. Both locations are ideal for outdoor adventures like hiking and camping as well as visiting glaciers and ice fields.
- Nearby Destinations
Other exciting places to visit are within reach of Calgary. You can see Edmonton in less than 3 hours where you can enjoy great shopping and a water park as well as museums and galleries. You can reach the U.S border in about 3 hours to where you can go check out Glacier National Park and the United Nations World Heritage site. A longer drive of 10 hours will get you to Vancouver which offers a city full of diversity and culture as well as beautiful oceans. While Calgary can seem a little isolated, there is plenty to do in the city itself, but if you need to explore, all you need is a tank of gas.
The Drawbacks of Living in Calgary
- High Unemployment
Overall unemployment rates are down in Alberta, but they remain on the high side for Calgary. With a current rate of 10.2%, it is the highest of any Canadian city. The rise is linked to lower oil prices and the associated layoffs in the oil industry. Construction and manufacturing firms have also been hit. The housing market has slowed because of the increased number of people out of work.The city’s growth and success is very much tied to the oil industry, so current situations may prevent you from moving there. While the city is great when times are not so tough, there is no guarantee as to when things will pick back up. If you are fortunate to get a job in the oil industry, you can expect a salary close to $73,000.
- Increased Crime Rates
Despite having crime rates lower than other Canadian cities, Calgary has still seen an increase over the last few years. The recent increase of 29% has been the largest of all cities in the country. The most reported reasons for this spike are breaking, theft of $5,000 or less, auto theft and violent crimes. Police blame the unusual economic situation for the spike in crime as well as the now readily available drugs such as methamphetamine. The economy is expected to grow in 2017, so there is hope that this negative crime scene can turn around.
- Traffic Congestion
Calgary has pretty bad traffic jams with close to 71 hours of delay expected over the course of one year for any person. With all the recent layoffs, there are fewer people on the roads which have been helping the congestion issue lately. The government has been working to improve roads as well. Any improvements in the economy will bring those traffic jams back, so it is a good thing public transportation is so reliable.
- Overcrowded Schools
Suburb populations have outgrown school construction so you may find that your kids will have to go to a school outside of your neighborhood. You should also be advised that class sizes are above provincial guidelines. Some schools even hold lotteries for placements, and people fake their address to get kids into particular schools.
The additional problem is that buses get crowded too. Bus companies have had to get bigger vehicles to keep children from having to sit on the floors. The Alberta government is adding 56 new schools and adding or modernizing 21 existing schools, which will help to take the pressure off of these crowded establishments.