Calgary or Winnipeg: where would you rather live? That's a question many people are asking themselves. While there are no wrong choices, each city has unique features to suit a broad array of lifestyle factors, housing preferences, and careers.
Calgary is the largest city in Alberta and the biggest metropolitan area of the three Prairie Provinces. It has a rich history and a climate with cold winters and the most sunshine of any Canadian city. The population of Calgary is around 1.61 million people, making it a significant hub and popular destination for new arrivals. There's no doubt about it—Calgary real estate is some of the most desirable in Canada.
On the other hand, Winnipeg is Manitoba's capital city and the largest city in that province. It's known for its thriving arts scene and is the home of many different artistic, music, and dance centers. It's much smaller than Calgary, with only about 817,000 residents.
Which city is right for you? Here's the info you need to decide.
Calgary Economy vs. Winnipeg Economy
The economy of the place you want to move to plays an essential role in deciding whether or not it's the right place for you. Different major industries, job opportunities, and even the general cost of living can impact your decision on where you want to move and what factors matter the most when making your decisions. Here is a breakdown between the Calgary economy and the Winnipeg economy.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Calgary is slightly higher than in Winnipeg by about 19%. A single person's living cost in Calgary is around $1,881 per month, while in Winnipeg, it's around $1,582 a month. For a family, the monthly cost of living is about $4,575/month in Calgary and $3,549 per month in Winnipeg. Food expenses per month in Calgary are about $554/month compared to $474 per month in Winnipeg.
After taxes, the average monthly salary in Calgary is $4,161 compared to $2,323 in Winnipeg, which helps to cover some differences in the average cost of living. It's also important to note that where you live within the city also makes a difference. A downtown one-bedroom apartment in Calgary is about $958 a month, while outside of downtown, the cost is about $813/month. In Winnipeg, a downtown apartment is about $721, and an out-of-town apartment is $688 monthly. Utility bills between the cities are roughly the same, as are internet expenses and mortgage rates.
Winnipeg and Calgary both have different appeals for people looking for a job. In Calgary, the tech industry is a significant hiring force, with many coming for top-talent jobs. New, emerging digital technologies provide exciting opportunities alongside Calgary's long-standing energy industry.
On the other hand, the job market in Winnipeg is more focused on business and administration jobs, along with natural and applied sciences. The arts scene in Winnipeg also draws in more artistic types, like painters, dancers, and musicians, who come to the city to learn more about their craft and sell their artistic talent.
Top Industries & Biggest Corporations
Winnipeg has an immense aerospace centre that draws in many scientific types to boost the market. There are also large agricultural industries at work, with life sciences and biology also being a large draw for the city. The business sector offers careers in finance, administration, supply chain management, and more. Employers like Caisse Financial Group, Canada Life Assurance Company, Payworks Inc, and RTDS Technologies are major employers in the Winnipeg area.
In Calgary, the major industries are technology and computer sciences. There are over 700 start-up companies in the Calgary area and over 100 corporate head offices, which is more than any other city in Canada per capita. The tech industry has made its home in Calgary with a major impact on the labour market and the supporting industries within the region. Companies like Deloitte, Amazon, KPMG, IBM, and Accenture are all major employers within the Calgary region. The city is also world-famous for its thriving energy, oil, and environment sectors.
Understanding key differences between the economies of different areas helps people understand why their city is unique and what potential job opportunities there are in each region of Canada. It also helps you understand the costs when you move to a new area and what you can do to prepare for an increase or decrease in the average cost of living from where you previously lived.
Calgary Commutes vs. Winnipeg Commutes
Another major factor that people need to know before moving to a new place is how to get where they need to go. Understanding what traffic you can expect during rush hour and what different public transportation options you have can help guide you in your decision-making and prepare you for what you can expect once you've moved to a new city.
Traffic Patterns and What to Expect During Rush Hour
As a major city with a large population, there is typically traffic to expect when driving in Calgary during rush hours in the morning and at night. Knowing the most-used roads can help you understand how to get around quickly, and knowing the weather conditions can also impact your driving. Major roads include Highway 2, Highway 201, Alberta Highway 1, and Highway 8. The rush hour is typically between 7:30 and 9:30 in the morning and 3:30 to 5:30 in the afternoon. The average commute time is 27 minutes, which is lower than most major cities in North America.
As Winnipeg is smaller, the traffic tends to be less intense but still occurs during rush hours. However, it is important to note that there are no urban freeway networks throughout the city, so people need to use suburban roads to travel around. Traffic tends to build up between 7:30 and 9 in the morning and between 3:30 and 5:30 in the afternoon.
Calgary's public transportation system helps to lower traffic congestion and reduce commute time compared to major cities. The Calgary Transit and Access Calgary systems help people get around the city by train and bus. There is a light rail transit system called the CTrain and around 170 bus routes. Access Calgary offers a special service for people with disabilities to help them get where they need to go. Nearly 50% of the workforce uses Calgary Transit each day.
On the other hand, Winnipeg has no light rail transit system, and most occupants have their own vehicles for transportation. There is a bus system called Winnipeg Transit that can be used, and Downtown Spirit provides free transportation between different areas in the downtown Winnipeg area. Residents can also use ride-share apps and taxi services to help them get to their final destinations.
Best Suburbs in Each City for Short Downtown Commutes
Finding a suburb near the major cities and downtown areas is a great way to reduce commute times and reduce the travel you need to take to get home or get to work. The city of Chestermere is one of the best suburbs for short commutes to Downtown Calgary.
In Winnipeg, the Headingley suburb provides the closest connections to downtown Winnipeg, which helps residents quickly travel to where they need to go and avoid the complicated street system that can slow down the average commute and take time to get to their final destination.
When you move to a new area, one of the most confusing factors is the traffic and transportation. Without this knowledge, it can be challenging for new residents to find their way around and feel at home in a new city. Understanding this information allows you to easily transition into your new region and get where you need to go.
What to Do in Calgary vs. What to Do in Winnipeg
Entertainment and things to do drastically influence a city's quality of life. These different activities impact where you want to move and what types of activities you can expect to find once you reach a new area. When you have something to do in a new city, you can adjust to the area quickly and become a part of the community.
Calgary's outdoor activities take place throughout every season. Things like skiing and snowboarding are popular, with many resorts and ski mountains nearby to cater to residents and visitors alike. Dog sledding is another unique activity to the area that you won't find in every city. You can watch races or learn how to mush on your own.
Winnipeg has many outdoor green spaces and parks to wander around and explore. There are paved trails for running, biking, and water sports like kayaking and canoeing. There are also different zoos to keep you busy and some of the oldest forests in the Manitoba province to walk through and admire.
Sports lovers in Calgary will find no shortage of great teams, from the Calgary Flames NHL team to the Calgary Football Club and Calgary Stampeders for the CFL. There are also many minor leagues and recreational sports leagues that sports fanatics can join.
The Winnipeg Jets are the NHL team that many residents cheer on in Winnipeg. They also have various recreational leagues for football, basketball, and winter sports for residents who want to get out and put it all on the field.
As a major city, there are plenty of nightlife opportunities in Calgary to provide vibrancy and excitement for residents. Nightlife in Calgary's Beltline neighbourhood includes restaurants, bars, clubs, and other nightlife options to entertain residents year-round.
In Winnipeg, places like Bar Italia, Cargo Bar, Club 200, The Good Will Social Club, and more entertain residents throughout the year with great drinks, fantastic food, and fun dancing and live music opportunities.
Discover the Best Opportunities for Your Needs
No matter where you choose to move, there are always changes you need to expect and prepare for to feel fully at home once you've reached your new city. Moving to Calgary and living in Winnipeg both offer fantastic opportunities. Whether you join the tech center in Calgary or the aerospace scene in Winnipeg, there will always be a place that works best for your wants and needs.