A Guide to Canada's Provinces and Territories

Western Canada

The west coast province of British Columbia has a temperate climate and varying landscapes, while the three provinces that form the Canadian Prairies have chilly winters and hot summers.

British Columbia has many aboriginal communities and cultural groups, including Canada’s largest Chinese community. Residents enjoy a high standard of living and stunning landscapes, though the living costs are among the highest in Canada. The urban areas are centers of construction, technology, business, and film, while the primary resources industries remain active.

Main municipalities: Victoria (provincial capital), Vancouver, Kelowna

Alberta possesses a history of small towns and frontier culture. According to Statistics Canada, Alberta has high employment rates and steady job growth. Albertan families have the highest family income along with low personal and property taxes. The province is Canada’s leading exporter of oil and natural gas, as well as a strong producer of grain, meat, and honey products.

Main municipalities: Edmonton (provincial capital), Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge.

Saskatchewan has many residents whose roots trace back to Eastern European countries like the Ukraine. The province is known for excellent social programs and senior’s communities. Housing and energy costs are low, allowing for a high standard of living. Many people in Saskatchewan are employed in the manufacturing and mining industries.

Main municipalities: Regina (provincial capital), Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert

Manitoba has small, intimate municipalities, which results in short commute times. The friendly residents have the highest volunteer and charity donation rates in Canada. The government attracts immigrants by providing career training, mentoring, and English as a Second Language classes. Manitoba’s mining industry produces nickel, copper, and many other minerals, while manufacturing and transportation sectors also contribute to the economy.

Main municipalities: Winnipeg (provincial capital) and Brandon.

Central Canada

Many urban and rural communities exist in this scenic area filled with forests, parks, and lakes.

Ontario is the settlement choice for the majority of Canadian newcomers, resulting in diverse ethnic communities. Although the cost of living is high, it is balanced by a high average family income. As the political and economic center of Canada, Ontario has thriving banking, technology, service, and tourism industries. It also attracts many artists and entertainers as a leader in media and publishing.

Main municipalities: There are over a dozen distinct communities in Ontario with populations over 100,000 people. The largest include Ottawa (national capital), Toronto (provincial capital), Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo and Windsor.

Québec, the only province with French as its official language, has rich French culture and attracts many newcomers from Francophone regions. Its high provincial personal tax contributes to excellent social programs, such as a unique pre-university program that provides some free post-secondary education. Québec has well-developed telecommunications, finance, transportation, manufacturing, and forestry sectors. The Canada-Quebec Accord gives Québec more authority and independence in the selection of immigrants and provision of immigrant services than most other provinces, although BC and Manitoba have both recently entered similar agreements.

Main municipalities: Québec City (provincial capital), Montreal, Saguenay and Gatineau.

Atlantic Canada

These provinces consist of urban centers and rural communities located in forest, valley, and coastal areas.

Newfoundland and Labrador is a province where many people live in fishing villages, which might appeal to people interested in a coastal lifestyle. Fishing, the largest economic sector, is declining due to decreasing fish populations. This province has a high unemployment rate and the government is working to stimulate other industries like mining and energy production.

Main municipalities: St. John’s (provincial capital) and Corner Brook

New Brunswick is a bilingual province with English- and French-speaking communities along with other ethnic groups. New Brunswick offers a bilingual public school education system, with the highest graduation rate in Canada. It leads in lumber exports and has expanding financial, information technology, and manufacturing industries.

Main municipalities: Fredericton (provincial capital), St. John, Moncton

Nova Scotia is home to people with Scottish, Irish, French, African, and other backgrounds. The affordable housing and fair cost of living allow for a high quality of life. Beyond the traditional fishing industry, residents work in areas such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and tourism. Businesses are also growing along with lively art, music, and theater communities.

Main municipalities: Halifax (provincial capital), Sydney

Prince Edward Island’s high population density results in small rural towns filled with culture and history. Residents possess modern conveniences while enjoying a mild climate and beautiful scenery that attracts many tourists each year. Although the historic fishing industry is declining, it is being replaced by the expanding food manufacturing and high technology sectors.

Main municipalities: Charlottetown (provincial capital) and Summerside.

Northern Canada

The three Canadian territories form Northern Canada, a harsh, cold region where 3% of Canada’s population reside.

Yukon is home to First Nations groups and some immigrants who live in small isolated communities. The economy relies on primary resources industries, especially the mining industry that began with the Klondike Gold Rush. Many residents work in government services and business sectors.

Main municipalities: Whitehorse (territorial capital).

Northwest Territories has an extreme climate, with freezing winters spent mostly in darkness. The weather also causes living costs to be very expensive, which employers attempt to offset with high wages and bonuses for new settlers. The mining and energy industries provide the main sources of income, while Yellowknife’s service sector is expanding.

Main municipalities: Yellowknife (territorial capital).

Nunavut, Canada’s largest and newest territory, has a harsh climate with temperatures ranging from -30ᵒC to 15ᵒC. Around 85% of the inhabitants are Inuit (an arctic First Nations group). They strive to keep their culture alive by following customs and protecting nature. The main industry is food production using traditional harvesting methods, complemented by mining, fishing, and tourism activities.

Main municipalities: Iqaluit (territorial capital).