English | Deutsch

Facts about Canada

Canada is a vast country by land mass, the second largest in the world, but it has only 32 million inhabitants. Canada was originally settled by the British and the French, but has had, over the centuries, an influx of people from many other countries. In the last two decades immigrants have mostly come from Asia, Hong Kong, India, Korea, the Philippines, and most recently, mainland China. Canada is a truly multicultural society where people from different cultures, ethnic backgrounds and religions live in harmony with each other. People immigrate to Canada for various reasons, but mostly because of the quality of life and a high standard of living. 90% of the population lives within a two–hour drive from the US border, while the areas further north are sparsely populated. The three largest cities are Toronto (in the Province of Ontario), Montreal (in the Province of Quebec), and Vancouver (in the Province of British Columbia) on the Pacific Ocean. Ontario is the most populated province (about 12 million people), followed by Quebec (about 7.5 million people). The province of Alberta has two large cities, Calgary and Edmonton; both are expanding rapidly, particularly since the beginning of the present oil and gas boom.

Ontario is heavily industrialized and has most of Canada's manufacturing industry, e.g., the automobile and the steel industry, but also has a developed high–technology sector (e.g., RIM, Nortel) and has high employment in financial and business services.

Quebec is home to most of Canada's textile and apparel industry as well as public transportation vehicle industry (Bombardier – trains and airplanes) and printing industry (Quebecor World). The forest sector and tourism also provide employment.

The primary industry in the Atlantic Provinces is the fishing industry, but they are increasingly developing the oil and gas and high–technology industries. The Prairie Provinces (Saskatchewan, Manitoba) are known for their vast wheat fields and some developing high–technology industry. Saskatchewan produces 18% of Canada's oil and contains 45% of Canada's arable farmland. Half of the province is forested and contains 100,000 lakes in a pristine area. The province is the world's largest producer of uranium and potash. It has slightly less than one million residents and its per–capita income will likely overtake Ontario's this year.

Alberta , with 3.2 million inhabitants, is the centre of vast oil and gas reserves, particularly since, with the increase in oil prices and advances in technology, recovery of oil from the huge oil sand deposits has become economically feasible. Alberta is now the wealthiest province in Canada because of the oil and gas boom, and has the highest average per household income and the lowest taxes. Both combined act like a magnet for both industry and individuals. Because of the expanding oil boom, the oil industry is in need of 70,000 skilled workers which it intends to attract from other provinces as well as other countries. Many of the jobs in the oil industry are well paid ($30 to $40 per hour), some of them highly paid. Unemployment in Alberta has fallen to a rock–bottom rate of 3.5%.

The Province of British Columbia is also experiencing an economic boom, particularly in mining and in the construction industry; the Winter Olympics of 2010 will be held in Vancouver and nearby Whistler, a ski resort 130 km north of Vancouver, and construction for it will start in the summer of 2006. The construction industry in British Columbia is in need of many more skilled workers; it is expected that, between 2006 and 2015, there will be openings for a total of about 60,000 jobs in the construction industry in British Columbia. Trades which are particularly in demand include boiler makers, brick layers, construction managers, contractors and supervisors.

Taxes in Canada are comparable to taxes in Western European countries, but vary from province to province because they are divided into federal and provincial tax rates. Federal taxes are the same throughout Canada, whereas provincial taxes are set by the provinces. Alberta has the lowest provincial taxes, has no provincial sales tax, only $400 probate tax on death for a $500,000 estate, no inheritance tax, no land transfer fees; the top marginal tax rate is 39%, as compared to 43.7% in British Columbia, 44% in Saskatchewan, 46.4% in Ontario. On an $80,000 household income of two adults and one income–earner the total income tax is $18,157 in Alberta, $18,818 in British Columbia, $20,878 in Saskatchewan, and $19,962 in Ontario. On a $150,000 household income with one income–earner, the income taxes payable are $44,385 in Alberta, $48,214 in British Columbia, $50,105 in Saskatchewan, and $51,377 in Ontario. Alberta has reduced non–resident property taxes and has a flat–rate personal income tax rate of 10%, giving Alberta by far the lowest top personal tax rate in the country.

The Pacific Coast and Vancouver Island have the mildest weather year–round in Canada, temperatures seldom drop below freezing, and snowfall is a rare occurrence. Spring starts early and lasts for up to four months. But Vancouver also has much precipitation (1,500 mm a year on average) because of the coastal mountains. Winters in the Prairie Provinces, in Quebec, and in Ontario are cold; summers are hot and dry on the prairies, hot and humid in Ontario.

Canada has large amounts of valuable natural resources, and the entire resource industry is experiencing a boom because of the demand for resources by the expanding industries of China and India. As a result, the Canadian dollar, which had fallen as low as 63 US cents for one Canadian dollar, has risen dramatically over the last few years to 90 US cents for one Canadian dollar. The Canadian manufacturing industry which mostly exports to the United States has begun to notice the negative impact of the higher dollar: it is becoming more difficult to export to the U.S. and many high–paying jobs in the manufacturing industry are lost, notably in Ontario. But high–tech jobs are developing to absorb the laid–off workers.

Not only the resource sector, but also the real estate sector is booming in Canada, primarily because of the low mortgage rates which have been available since 2000/2001. Most of the demand is for condominiums, the typical "starter home", as well as single family residences. Prices have risen sharply over the last few years for condominiums as well as single family residences. Greater Vancouver continues to be the most expensive market in the country; as of February 2006, the average price for a condominium was $321,151, $397,214 for a townhouse, $705,141 for a detached house. More than 66% of homes sold in 2006, including townhouses and apartments, were under the average sale price of $490,000. Prices are lower in the Fraser Valley (the area east of Vancouver): $434,516 for a single family house, $266,560 for a townhouse and $167,526 for a condominium. In Ottawa, the average price for a single family house was $245,787 in January 2006. In Calgary, the average home resale price was $283,579 in the first few months of 2006. In the Waterloo region of Ontario house prices range between $185,000 and $650,000. In Canada, about 60% of the people own their own home. Mortgage payments are not deductible from income taxes (unlike the United States), and property taxes are substantial, e.g., $2,980 per year on a $576,000 single family house in Vancouver, $2,050 per year for a $500,000 apartment in downtown Vancouver and about $6,000 per year for a million dollar single family house in Vancouver. There is no capital gains tax payable on the increase in value of a person's principal residence when he/she sells it or dies, but a couple can have only one principal residence. There are no inheritance taxes, but capital gains tax is payable on the increase in value of any asset at the time of death, except the principal residence.

The latest available income figures are those for February 2006. The average hourly wage for all employees (all levels) in British Columbia is $19.81 ($21.80 for men and $17.83 for women); the highest average hourly wages are paid in management occupations ($29.97), occupations in natural and applied sciences ($26.81), social science, education and government services ($25.65), and health occupations ($24.54).

The average hourly wages in February 2006 in Ontario were $20.58 (all levels), $32.06 in management occupations, $29.64 in natural and applied sciences; $26.54 in occupations in social sciences, education, government services; $23.23 in health occupations.

The average hourly wages of February 2006 in Alberta have outpaced those in Ontario: $20.61 for all levels; $32.38 in management occupations; $30.11 in natural and applied sciences; $24.86 in occupations in social sciences, education, government services, and $24.23 in health occupations.

The average 2005 earnings of Canadians who have completed a university education is $48,648 compared to $25,477 for those who finished only high school. The average earnings in 2005 of Canadian men were $39,100 compared to $24,800 for women. The average Canadian household spends $61,152 each year. Most of that goes toward housing (19%), transportation (14%), and food (11%).

41% of Canadians live in dwellings valued between $100,000 and $199,999; 27% live in homes worth $200,000 or more; 23.5% of Canadians live in places valued between $50,000 and $100,000.

The majority of Canadians, 65% or 20,754,000 people, live in the metropolitan areas of the country. Toronto with 5,203,000 inhabitants is by far the largest city in Canada, followed by Montreal and Vancouver.

Visible minorities comprise 13% of Canada's population; 3.5% of the population are Chinese, 3.1% South Asians, 2.2% Blacks, and 1.1% Filipinos.

Many Canadians are very knowledgeable in computer technology; the Internet is used in 64% of Canadian households.