Is it Better to Live In British Columbia or Alberta?

The timeless debate for many Canadians is which province is the best to live in, and British Columbians and Albertans sure like to debate this question regularly! BC and Alberta are the two westernmost provinces of Canada, joined together by a long shared border.

British Columbia is a better place to live when comes to employment opportunities. It’s a little more expensive to live in, but you can find great employment there- along with beautiful landscapes and wildlife. If you’re looking for an affordable place to settle down, Alberta may be the more best choice.

If you ask someone who lives in BC, they are quick to point to the natural beauty, warm weather, and great cities – they are the better province! But then ask someone from Alberta, and they can make a case for being a better province to live in by looking at the low cost of living, sunny weather, and high-paying jobs.

Ultimately, both provinces have many pros and cons, and the answer to which is better is certainly a matter of opinion over fact. But, there are a few factors to look at when considering which is a better province to live in, including: weather, cost of living, city life, and natural beauty. 

Cost of Living: BC vs. Alberta

The cost of living might be the single biggest factor in deciding where to live. After all, if you can’t afford to live there, you need to move somewhere else! On the whole, Alberta is a cheaper province to live than BC. 

This can, however, vary based on where you are living in each province. Obviously, living in a small town is significantly different than living in a large city. Still, BC is known as a very expensive province and just about anywhere will be pricier than Alberta.

Housing is the biggest expense to consider. Comparing the largest cities in each province – Vancouver and Victoria – it is clear that Albertans fare way better. The average cost of buying a home in Vancouver is currently recorded at $1.3million, whereas in Calgary it is only $411,00 which is actually less than it was in 2020. This is comparable to a city like Vernon, BC (average home price $439,000), which is much smaller than Calgary. 

Again comparing Vancouver and Calgary, you can see that consumer prices – rent, restaurants, groceries, utilities, etc. – are higher in Vancouver across the board. Additionally, BC had an additional 7% sales tax on goods that make things even more expensive to purchase.  

Weather: BC vs. Alberta

Another significant factor in deciding where to live is the weather. Weather can affect not only your daily activities like commuting to work, but it will also affect your recreation choices and hobbies. BC and Alberta have very different climates, both with pros and cons, and the “better” choice is likely dependent on your preferences.

Weather in BC varies from the coast to the interior. The coast is temperate, with little snow and warmer temperatures. It can, however, rain significantly, which a lot of people do not like. The interior of BC is more comparable to Alberta, with drier weather and colder winters. 

Alberta on the other hand can get very, very cold in the winter months with temperatures dropping and lots of snow. The province does have a lot of sunshine, though, with Calgary being named Canada’s sunniest city!

City Life: BC vs. Alberta

For people who desire living in a large city with all the amenities and attractions, it’s important to compare some of the major cities in each province to determine which has the better options. 

  • Vancouver, BC is the largest city in the province and is perhaps one of the more popular Canadian cities, drawing large numbers of international tourists attracted to the natural beauty and outdoor lifestyle. It is a world-class city with great restaurants, attractions, and things to see and do. And, of course, there is no shortage of beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean to the west and mountain ranges to the north and east.
  • Calgary, Alberta is the largest city in the province and also offers a variety of things to see and do. Calgary also is the host to popular events like the annual Calgary Stampede which draws thousands of international tourists. While Calgary has all the amenities of a large city, it is more spread out and doesn’t have as lively a downtown core as Vancouver does.
  • Victoria, BC is the capital of the province and is located on Vancouver Island. It is a picturesque city with great cultural attractions and a beautiful surrounding of the ocean. 
  • Edmonton, AB is the capital of the province and has all the amenities you need in a city. Perhaps the biggest draw is West Edmonton Mall, which is North America’s largest shopping mall and a desirable indoor attraction to get out of the cold winter days in Edmonton.

Natural Beauty: BC vs. Alberta

BC has the tagline “Super, Natural British Columbia” and for good reason – from the pacific ocean to the Rocky mountains to the rainforests, BC seems to have it all! It is truly a beautiful province with great access to all kinds of outdoor recreation opportunities. 

Despite British Columbians claiming the title of the most beautiful province, Alberta certainly puts up a good fight! It shares the Rocky Mountains with BC, with areas like Jasper and Banff taking top spot for naturally beautiful cities. There are tons of options for hiking and skiing in the province as well. 

However, the cities in Alberta such as Calgary and Edmonton are not as aesthetically beautiful as BC cities, and lack the same access to the ocean and other large bodies of water like in BC.

Job Opportunities: BC vs. Alberta

When moving to a new place, it’s essential to find a well-paying job in your field or industry. Both BC and Alberta offer excellent job opportunities. They both have large, populated cities that offer all varieties of job opportunities. 

There are also jobs available due to the natural resources in both provinces – for example, lumber and fishing are booming industries in BC and oil is big in Alberta.

The oil industry is a huge employer in Alberta, but it goes through a boom and bust cycle, which means that there can be seasons of excellent employment, but seasons of low employment as well. If you work outside of the oil industry, you are likely to be paid very well in Alberta, which has the highest salaries of all provinces in Canada. 

Conclusion

Alberta and British Columbia make up the two westernmost provinces in Canada and share many things in common, including excellent cities, job opportunities, and natural beauty. However they differ significantly in their climates and the cost of living. 

When deciding where to live, it’s important to consider these different pros and cons for each province. Whichever location you choose, you can know it is a good province and many people will absolutely defend their province as the “best.”

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Thais R

I moved to Canada in 2016. This was the best decision that I ever made. I created this website to share what I’ve learned with anyone who’s thinking of moving or travelling to Canada.

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