Is it better to live in Ottawa or Gatineau?

Ottawa and Gatineau might be two cities on either side of the river, but the difference is much more than that. Both cities are in different provinces, and living in either of them couldn’t have been any different. This has led to the question, is it better to live in Ottawa or Gatineau?

It’s hard to determine which is a better place to live, between Ottawa or Gatineau. This generally depends on various factors, such as whether you have kids or even your salary. However, Ottawa is a better place to live. The average income, jobs, standards of living, and healthcare are higher.

Regardless, it’s not simple to conclude that one of these cities is better to live in Ottawa or Gatineau than the other. This is why it’s necessary to look at both cities based on specific criteria. In this article, we compare living in Ottawa and Gatineau while examining the various factors that make a city livable to determine which is better.

Is It Better to Live in Ottawa or Gatineau?

Ottawa has a livability rating of 91% compared to 84% for Gatineau. While both cities still rank high, it shows that Ottawa is a better place to reside in. But this rating may not be enough to make a definite decision; examining individual factors between the two cities shows which city is better.

Factors Affecting Livability

Housing and Rent

The cost of housing and rent in the two cities are well documented. Generally, homes are more expensive to buy or rent in Ottawa compared with Gatineau. For example, the average cost of a home in Ottawa is $682,062 in June 2021, while single-family homes in Gatineau cost $435,500 in the first quarter of 2021.

Even if you choose to rent, which might be a better option, you’ll still have to shell out top dollar to get the kind of place you want. For example, according to the Rental Market Survey by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the average rent in Gatineau is $874. In Ottawa, it costs $1410 on average to rent a two-bedroom apartment.

Taxes

Another area where these two neighbouring cities show their difference is in terms of taxes. Being in different provinces means they’re taxed differently. For example, Ottawa is part of Ontario, while Gatineau is part of Quebec.

If you earn below $44,500 annually, you’ll pay 15% as tax in Gatineau and only 5% in Ottawa. If your salary isn’t above $89,000, your tax burden in Quebec increases to 20%, while you’ll only pay 9.5% in Ontario.

Your tax rate in Quebec increases to 25.75% once you start earning above $108,000. But in Ontario, you’ll only start paying 11.16% once your income is up to $150,000 annually. So, taxes generally cost less in Ottawa than in Gatineau.

If you live in Gatineau but work in Ottawa, you’ll have to pay taxes in both areas. But you can claim 45% refundable on the taxes you paid in Ontario. You can use income tax calculators to determine how much you’ll need to pay for taxes in each region.

Education

The cost of education is a major factor for moving to Gatineau, Quebec. The Quebec provincial government subsidizes education here, right from daycare. In turn, it costs way less for daycare, university, and college education for residents.

In Ottawa, daycare is expensive, and so are all other levels of education. But you get more options because there’s a public catholic school system here, something you can’t find in secular Quebec, where there’s only one public school system. In 2018, The average cost of childcare per month was $1,009 for a toddler in Ottawa, while it costs only $190 in Gatineau. Beyond that, there’s also refundable tax credit on childcare expenses.

However, most of Gatineau’s public primary and secondary schools are French-speaking. Only students who previously have attended English public schools or have English origins can attend English-speaking public schools.

Health Services

One of the issues Gatineau residents have with their city is the health services. Finding family doctors can be difficult and waiting times for emergencies are much longer. However, health care services are more accessible for Ottawa residents.

Fortunately, Gatineau residents can use their Quebec health cards in Ottawa hospitals. If a Gatineau resident pays personally for health care services in Ottawa, they can request a refund from Quebec.

Language

This is another major difference between the cities. French is the predominant language for Gatineau, while English is the predominant language in Ottawa. However, you don’t need to be proficient in French before you can live in Gatineau. Most residents are bilingual.

Even in Ottawa, you’ll still find that most people in government offices are also bilingual, which means you shouldn’t have any issue with language, no matter which one you speak best. 

Cost of Living

The cost of living is much higher in Ottawa when compared with that of Gatineau. This is because all the basic things you need for survival, such as utilities, food, even car insurance, costs more in Ottawa than in Gatineau. 

In order to get a clear view of the cost of living, we look at the cost of things in both cities compared with the national average. The cost of goods and services in both Gatineau and Ottawa is 5% higher than the national average. The cost of groceries in Ottawa and Gatineau is also 1% higher than the national average. Even in terms of utilities, the cost in both cities is 7% higher than the Canadian average.

However, the overall cost of living in Gatineau is 16% below the national average compared with that of Ottawa, which is only 8% below. 

Job Opportunities

This is one area where Ottawa is superior to Gatineau. There are limited jobs in Gatineau, which is why many of the residents still work in Ottawa. Also, since Ottawa is the capital city, it has more governmental offices and tech companies than Gatineau.

The unemployment rate in Gatineau is lower at 3.7% compared with the 4.4% in Ottawa.  But so also is the average household income. The average household income in Ottawa is $92,579 compared with the $72,582 in Gatineau.

In Conclusion 

Both Gatineau and Ottawa are within the National Capital Region, even though they may have several differences. Areavibes gives Ottawa a livability score of 91% in terms of overall livability, while Gatineau has 84%. But this alone isn’t enough to determine that Ottawa is a better place to live. If you’re thinking of raising children, Gatineau might be a better place for you because the cost of living isn’t just low, but education is also more affordable. Regardless, either city is a good place to live.

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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