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Calgary vs Montréal: Where Should You Live? [2023]

Posted by Justin Havre on Monday, November 14th, 2022 at 2:26pm.

Comparing Calgary and Montréal

When deciding where to live, Canada's major cities are vibrant places, each with its own sense of character and appeal. Among these are Calgary and Montréal, the third- and second-largest cities in the nation, respectively.

Calgary is noted for combining metropolitan appeal and amenities with a strong sense of community, while Montréal is widely regarded as Canada's economic and cultural hub. Each of these cities holds substantial potential as a place to call home for anyone. If you're considering moving to Calgary or Montréal, you're deciding between two great cities. Learn how Calgary and Montréal compare in several key categories worth considering in a future residence.

Calgary Economy vs. Montréal Economy

One primary consideration for moving to a new city is the local economy. How does Calgary's economy compare to Montréal's? Of course, when the economy is strong, there are more job opportunities, which has a domino effect in positively impacting the overall quality of life in a particular area. Before you make a move, it's essential to compare details such as the cost of living, the strength of the job market, top industries, and major employers.

Cost of Living

Cost of living measures the amount of money needed to pay for necessary expenses associated with a certain standard of living for a specific location. While different people may have slightly different ideas about what counts as a required expense, cost of living expenses usually includes housing, utilities, food, transportation, education, and healthcare, among others. When comparing two or more cost of living metrics, it's essential to consider the number of people in a household.

Calgary's average monthly expenses:

  • Rent and utilities: $1,024 (one person), $1,899 (family of four)
  • Food: $554 (one person), $1,462 (family of four)
  • Transportation: $175 (one person), $456 (family of four)

Montréal's average monthly expenses:

  • Rent and utilities: $839 (one person), $1,500 (family of four)
  • Food: $529 (one person), $1,372 (family of four)
  • Transportation: $178 (one person), $472 (family of four)

The cost of living in Calgary is generally slightly higher than in Montréal, but salaries in Calgary tend to be higher and offset the difference.

Job Market

Economy in Calgary and Montreal

The job market for a particular area is another important factor worth serious consideration. The demand for labour, the supply of available workers, and the trends of these figures all lend themselves to the job market outlook.

Trends in the employment rate, participation rate, and the unemployment rate can reflect the strength of the local economy. The employment rate is the percentage of employed people vs. the total eligible labour force. The participation rate is the percentage of employed people and active job seekers vs. the total eligible labour force. The unemployment rate is the percentage of unemployed jobseekers vs. the total eligible labour force.

The numbers below reflect the economic indicators for Calgary and Montréal in 2016.

For Calgary:

  • Total labour force: 816,545
  • Employment rate: 66.5%
  • Participation rate: 73.3%
  • Unemployment rate: 9.3%

For Montréal:

  • Total labour force: 863,910
  • Employment rate: 58.3%
  • Participation rate: 64.3%
  • Unemployment rate: 9.3%

Top Industries & Biggest Corporations

If you're pondering a move to a new location, knowing which fields are most in-demand helps you find gainful employment, especially relative to the local cost of living. Both Calgary and Montréal are significant hubs for various industries and businesses, so both cities offer a vast range of opportunities.

Calgary stands as a national leader in the oil and gas industry. Several major oil and gas companies have operations in Alberta's largest city, including BP Canada, Canadian National Resources Limited, and Shell Canada. Approximately 87% of the country's oil and gas providers and 66% of the country's coal providers operate in Calgary. Other large employment sectors include trade, professional services, healthcare, and construction.

Montréal has the second-largest economy in Canada, powered by aerospace, electronic goods, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, printed goods, software engineering, telecommunications, textile and apparel manufacturing, tobacco, and transportation. Montréal is also an international hub for artificial intelligence development. Microsoft, Google, and Samsung are a few tech giants with AI operations here.

As the third- and second-largest Canadian cities, respectively, Calgary and Montréal have solid local economies with opportunities in various industries and business sectors. Strong economies often indicate that local governments are well-equipped to provide public services for a high quality of life.

Calgary Commutes vs. Montréal Commutes

For many people, the daily commute is an important consideration when looking for a place to live. The time you spend each day travelling to and from work can impact your overall satisfaction. The length and quality of your commute will be affected by distance, time of travel, and mode of transportation.


One of the significant factors affecting your daily commute is traffic patterns, especially during rush hour, which is from 6:00–9:00 a.m. and 4:00–6:00 p.m. for most places. Morning traffic tends to be heavier when moving towards major business districts, and the opposite is true during evening rush hour. This is a pattern that is true of most urban centers, and neither Calgary nor Montréal are exceptions.

In Calgary, 71% of commuters take personal vehicles to work as drivers or passengers. The busiest morning commute is between 7:00–8:00 a.m. When driving in Calgary, most locals commute within the city with an average travel time of 15–30 minutes.

In Montréal, slightly less than half of the commuters take personal vehicles. Unlike Calgary, almost 37% of commuters use public transit. While most Montréalers also work within the city, the average travel time is higher, ranging from 30–45 minutes.

Public Transportation

Commutes in Calgary and Montreal

Public transportation provides an alternative to personal vehicles, especially for commuting. Taking buses and trains to work can help commuters save on costs associated with owning a car, including gas, insurance, maintenance, and parking. Many riders also prefer not to have to focus on the road, especially during rush hour.

Public transportation in Calgary is highly accessible, particularly for a city of its size. Calgary Transit operates buses and a light rail within Calgary. Locals can take regular buses, rapid transit buses, and light rail trains to get around the city. Passengers can purchase one-time fares that are valid for 90 minutes or tickets, which are books of 10 fares. Day passes and monthly passes are also available for purchase.

Montréal offers public transit through buses, commuter trains, and subways. The Montréal Transit Society (Société de transport de Montréal) operates the buses and subways, while the Montréal Metro runs the commuter train system. Public transportation is widely available from 5:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. on weekdays.

Best Suburbs in Each City for Short Downtown Commutes

Distance is also a major factor in the time of daily commutes. Many people prefer to live in communities that offer short commutes to a city's downtown or other major business districts.

For Calgary:

  • Airdrie: This city is about 34 kilometres north of Calgary, with an average 30-minute commute to downtown. Airdrie also offers express bus service to Calgary.
  • Langdon: Just east of Calgary, the average commute to downtown is 30 minutes and approximately 35 kilometres.
  • Chestermere: Offering waterfront homes, this city is 17 kilometres east of Calgary. Commuting from Chestermere to downtown takes less than 30 minutes.

For Montréal:

  • Plateau Mont-Royal: This neighbourhood is around 11 minutes and under 3 kilometres from downtown Montréal.
  • Westmount: Known for its luxury homes, this suburb is 11 minutes and 3.3 kilometres southwest of downtown.
  • Ahuntsic: This suburb is less than 30 minutes and 11 kilometres northwest of downtown Montréal.

It's important to know what your options are when it comes to daily commuting. Shorter commutes take less of your time, but the right combination of distance, traffic, and mode of transportation can make all the difference.

What to Do in Calgary vs. What to Do in Montréal

Life is more than just work and sleep, and having a variety of options for entertainment also contributes to your quality of life. What do you like to do in your spare time? Are you an outdoor enthusiast? Perhaps you're more of a night owl. Learn more about things to do in Calgary and Montréal.

Outdoor Activities

With over 100 square kilometres of open space and plenty of sunshine, Calgary is an excellent place for those who love outdoor fun. There are great walking and jogging trails in Calgary, and the city is home to one of the longest urban paths in North America. There are great golf courses in Calgary, too! Feed your need for outdoor thrills with these activities and locations:

  • Winsport Olympic Park: Skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking
  • Calgary Outdoor Centre: Cross-country skiing
  • Carburn Park: Hiking and animal watching
  • Chestermere Lake: Paddleboarding, swimming, and other watersports

Montréal also offers several outdoor activities for locals and visitors in and around the city. Lovers of physical activity and culture can find fun things to do outdoors, including:

  • Mount Royal Park: Tam-tam drum circles
  • Lachine Canal: Biking, canoeing, and electric boating
  • Montréal Botanical Garden: Walking, exploring, and exhibits
  • Bixi to Verdun Beach and Bird Sanctuary: Watersports, biking, and bird watching


Things to Do in Calgary and Montreal

Calgary and Montréal have proud legacies deeply rooted in sports and athletic events. Calgary hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1988, while Montréal hosted the Summer Olympic Games in 1976. Sports enthusiasts have plenty of options for entertainment in both cities.

When you buy one of Calgary's luxury homes, you become part of a proud sporting legacy. In Calgary, sports fans can root for the following home teams:

  • Canadian Football: Calgary Stampeders (Canadian Football League)
  • Hockey: Calgary Flames (National Hockey League), Calgary Wranglers (American Hockey League)
  • Lacrosse: Calgary Roughnecks (National Lacrosse League)
  • Soccer: Calgary Football Club (Canadian Premier League)

Many of Calgary's teams have a fierce rivalry with teams in Edmonton, Alberta.

In Montréal, you can show spirit by following these local professional teams:

  • Canadian Football: Montréal Alouettes (Canadian Football League)
  • Hockey: Montréal Canadiens (National Hockey League)
  • Soccer: CF Montréal (Major League Soccer)

Montréal also hosts the Canadian Grand Prix of Formula One racing and the Rogers Cup men's and women's tournaments in professional tennis.


For people who enjoy nights out on the town, both cities offer active nightlife scenes to suit a wide range of tastes.

Calgarians don't just enjoy daytime outdoor activities. They also have their choice of fun after the sun goes down, contributing to the city's status as one of the most livable places in the world. There's also a veritable lineup of great annual festivals in Calgary, thanks to its reputation as the city with the most festivals in Canada. Check out these haunts in Canada's "Cowtown:"

  • Nightclubs: Cowboys Dance Hall (country and western), Commonwealth Bar & Stage (live music, DJs)
  • Music venues: Blues Can, Palace Theatre, Studio Bell
  • Casinos: Cowboys Casino, Deerfoot Inn & Casino, Grey Eagle Resort and Casino
  • Bars: Betty Lou's Library, Shelter Cocktail Bar, The Ship & Anchor

Scratch your itch to dance the night away or immerse yourself in the hip nightlife scene with the following Montréal hotspots:

  • Live Music: Casa de Popolo, Sala Rossa, Diving Bell Social Club
  • Brewpubs: Molson Brewery, Dieu de Ciel, Le Cheval Blanc
  • Dance clubs: Club 649, Honkytonk, Electric Avenue

All work and no play can make anyone feel a little dull. The good news is that there's plenty to do and see in Montréal and Calgary, no matter the time of day or season. There's rarely a dull moment, from outdoor fun to sports to nightlife.

Stampede to the Stampede City

When you think about enjoying the good life, you may need to make a beeline for Calgary's best neighbourhoods or plant roots in Montréal. While both cities have plenty to offer, Calgary's higher salaries and robust public transit system are just some of the factors that tilt the decision into Calgary's favor. Plus, the city has more sports teams and is particularly good for those in the oil and gas industry. So if you're thinking about moving to one of these great Canadian cities, choose Calgary!

If you're looking for the perfect Calgary home, contact Justin Havre of RE/MAX First with Calgary Homes at (403) 217-0003 to get in touch with a local Calgary real estate agent and discover your new dream home today.

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