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Toronto vs Vancouver: Which City is a Better Place to Live?

Updated on October 11, 2010

In 2010, The Economist favoured Canadian and Australian cities in the “Global Liveability Report.” 140 cities worldwide were given a score based on qualitative and quantitative data. Deciding factors were organized under five main branches: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.

The top ranking was given to Vancouver. Toronto wasn’t far behind at fourth; placing it underneath Vienna, and Melbourne. Calgary placed fifth.

Similar lists such as “Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey” have also given Vancouver world-class ratings. Undoubtedly there is plenty of hype behind the city of Vancouver as of late. Interestingly it is Toronto that is booming with condo building projects in recent years. Transplants want to live in the heart of Toronto and contractors can hardly keep up with demand. No matter what city you choose, housing in both cities is becoming increasingly expensive. Quality rarely comes cheap.

Many argue that this is an apples and oranges comparison. Toronto is Canada’s New York, while Vancouver is more akin to Seattle. Each city has a unique flavour that must be experienced and that can’t be put down on paper. Still, let’s take a crack at stacking up the pros and cons. It’s fun to do so.

You'll see more guys like this in Toronto.
You'll see more guys like this in Toronto.

Lifestyle

Obviously every individual carries a unique philosophy with them concerning work and play. Some bold generalizations must be made when comparing factors like lifestyle.

Toronto has a play hard, work harder vibe. The scent of opportunity fills the air. Toronto is Canada’s financial hub and home to the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). The best and brightest are all trying to outmanoeuvre one another in order to ‘make it’ or to retain a top position. For the most part, people look well put together and are in a rush to get somewhere or get something done.

People don’t tend to flock to Vancouver in search of riches like they do Toronto. The attraction is the balance between leisurely outdoor activities and access to big city conveniences as well. Although plenty of major companies have a base in Vancouver, the economy relies on tourism due to the sheer natural beauty surrounding the area. Employees itch to get off early on Fridays and employers are lenient towards this attitude. Like the area itself, on average a Vancouverites is a mixture of urban dweller and outdoorsperson.

Massive penthouse in Vancouver.
Massive penthouse in Vancouver.

Cost of Living

When housing costs are compared with average income, Vancouver is the most expensive place to live in Canada. Unlike Toronto, the natural landscape and mountains don’t allow for anything but the best-planned development. The shortage of suitable, flat land has led to scarce housing options.

Finding a place to stay in Toronto is a little easier with all the new high-rise condos going up but it isn’t much cheaper. On average Torontonians have a higher salary so the rates are more realistic for the market.

Finance is huge in downtown TO.
Finance is huge in downtown TO.

Employment Prospects

Traditionally Toronto is seen as the city of opportunity. It is home to a diverse catalogue of industries such as finance, advertising and marketing, IT, industrial design, fashion and life sciences. Toronto has the third largest financial services cluster in North America under New York and Los Angeles.

International trade is a key area for Vancouver's economy. It has Canada’s largest port that ranks first in North America in total foreign exports. Dubbed “Hollywood North,” the city hosts the production of about 10% of Hollywood movies. Other big industries include technology, tourism, finance, international relations and finance.

In 2009, unemployment rate was 10% in Toronto compared to 7.3% in Vancouver.

Another rainy day on Robson Street.
Another rainy day on Robson Street.

Climate

Determining the better climate depends on your preferences. Toronto has more extreme conditions so the summer heat can get sweltering and the winters are frigid. People that like well-defined seasons tend to prefer Toronto weather.

Vancouver is milder but the downside it that it rains a lot. People tend to forget that Vancouver is built on top of rain forest zones. If long bouts of rain have a negative effect on your mood, you may want to reconsider moving to Vancouver.

You'll breathe easier in Vancouver.
You'll breathe easier in Vancouver.

Air Quality

Vancouver boasts outstanding air quality. For the majority of common contaminants, the air quality has actually improved over the last twenty years despite of the growth in population and business. Metro Vancouver was the first region in the country to draft and adopt an Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP).

Toronto’s air isn’t half bad for a city of its size. Historically, most days had an air quality index (AQI) from “very good” to “moderate.” Five days in 2010 had a rating of “poor.” On the down side a study showed that five common air pollutants contribute to around 1,700 premature deaths and 6,000 hospital stays each year.

Roosevelt Room in Toronto.
Roosevelt Room in Toronto.

Daytime Attractions and Nightlife

Due to its high concentration of theatres, museums, restaurants and clubs in the city core, Toronto has the edge when it comes to going out. The entertainment district has a thriving nightlife. If you prefer to party into the morning hours there are a variety of after-hour spots to visit after the club.

Vancouver has more daytime options for nature buffs as there is world-class skiing, white water rafting, and climbing sites nearby. It is lacking in the way of theatre and high-end restaurants when compared to Toronto. The nightlife is spread out over a larger area making transportation more challenging. Last call is at 2am and some clubs allow patrons to stick around until 3am. After that, Vancouverites are forced to move the party home or hit the sack.

The Verdict

Toronto and Vancouver both offer something entirely different. Spend some time in each city and familiarise yourself with the surroundings. Soon one will click with you enough to be able to call it home.

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    • profile image

      toshan 6 years ago

      hi my name is toshan from india i have completed my BCA and gniit software engineering as well and also completed my VFX [special effetcs course]... so i m looking for a college or institiute which is providing me the

      same course, and i love canada and i want to be satlle down in canada, but i m little bit confuse while choosing the Vancouver or Toronto so plz help me out.... some main points

      1. my course avalibility vfx [special effetcs]

      2. jobs avalibility after completing my course in film or tv field related....

      3. during my study period full of part time jobs availabe with lots of dollers whether it 12$ or 16$ per hour.

      4. no convence problem

      5. living problem [ rent or sharing the room]

      6. food problem

      7. where am i live either in Vancouver or Toronto the city was not so much expesive and i can earn money and save money as well ....)

      PLZ HELP ME OUT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE I PLANNED TO CAME CANADA NEXT YEAR BY FALL SESION [SEP - OCT 2011 ]

    • T. Pisa profile image

      T. Pisa 6 years ago

      Great Hub! Having lived in both places I can say it's very true and accurate!

    • profile image

      J Khane 6 years ago

      Hello Toshan. I would advise you to try Toronto because it is less expensive than Vancouver and larger.Also there is a significant Indian population in Toronto preferably in Scarboro and you can post an ad for an Apartment on Craigslist and look for the Canada tab and click on Ontario, Toronto and look for post an ad in the Apartment section for a roommate or rent a room from a nice family.People here who are from the areas you are from would offer you a job. Please freshen up on your English spelling and take an English course to be strong with the language when communicating to prospective Employers and stay away from sly people or men.

    • profile image

      news 6 years ago

      Hi

      I also recommend Toronto. Less expensive and job opprotunity simillar like in Vancouver.

    • profile image

      Barbara  6 years ago

      I have spent my younger age in Winnipeg. My job opportunity came in 2002 and moved to Kingston Ontario. I lived there for 5 years. Food, gas and housing were not expensive. I often drove to Toronot for visiting friends and visiting restaurants. long story to make it short. Now I have another opportunity to tour qound Vancouver city. Downtown vancouver has lots of shops and restaurants. Some food court are expensive and some don't. When you go to grocery shopping , you have to pay for parking even though at costco. Apartment rent is $1500 per month very nice .It depend which area. Downtown west end has tons of apartments. you have to sign at least one year agreement and then after that month by month. Toronto is less expensive and don't have to pay for your health service, it depend on your income to change per monthly.Find out more detail before moving to Vancouver.

    • profile image

      miha 6 years ago

      hi..

      i will come to Canada.. but i dont know where to go, to Toronto or Vancouver? .. i want to work in a fashion like a model... so can somebody please thell me wich place is beteher to do this job.. Toronto or Vancouver?

      Thanks..

    • jeremytorres profile image

      jeremytorres 5 years ago

      Great articles.

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