A guide to Canadian provinces for newcomers

A guide to Canadian provinces for newcomers thumbnail

Published on September 27th, 2022 at 08: 30am EDT

If you’re considering moving to Canada to work or study, the number of regions in the country might be overwhelming. How do you even begin choosing between the 10 provinces and three territories? Is there much of a difference from one to another? And what should you know about the weather, economies and cities in each?

Canada is a country with significant geographic diversity. Before choosing a province or territory to move to, it’s important to look at all your options. To simplify that process for you, we’ve created an overview to help you understand what each offers.

While Canada has federal immigration programs, it also has provincial and territorial immigration streams that you might qualify for. Each jurisdiction can also set its own rules around how it recognizes certain foreign credentials. Be sure to click on the link we’ve provided to resources to help you better understand how each province or territory approaches these key things.

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British Columbia

Canada’s most western province, British Columbia is known for its beautiful forests and mountains. Two of the province’s largest cities, Vancouver and Victoria, are located near the Pacific Ocean and have mild but wet climates. Expect rainy rather than snowy winters if you settle in this part of B.C.

Elsewhere in British Columbia, the weather is more typical to Canada with cold and snowy winters. The province is home to world-class universities and a growing tech economy.

When you arrive, you might think some B.C. cities resemble California. That’s because the province often stands in for California in TV shows and movies.

Population size:  5,286,528 as of 2022

Newcomers arriving:  34,385 in 2021

Average household income:  $67,500 in 2020

Average home price:  $947,216 in June 2022

Top universities:  University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria

Top colleges:  Camosun College, Douglas College, Langara College, Okanagan College

Main industries:  Agriculture, construction, film, fisheries and aquacultures, forestry, high technology, manufacturing, mining, tourism

Largest Cities:  Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Nanaimo

Provincial immigration site: Immigrate to BC

Foreign qualifications: Foreign Qualifications Recognition


Alberta is often referred to as Canada’s version of Texas because its biggest industries are oil and gas. The province is a mix of farmland, mountains and cities with extremely cold winters. Alberta is known for having some of the earliest and latest snowfalls of the season.

Alberta is also famous for its cowboy culture, with the Calgary Stampede being one of the province’s central cultural events. It’s also home to a UFO landing pad. If you pass through St. Paul, Alberta, be sure to check out the UFO Tourist and Information Centre.

Population size:  4,500,917 as of 2022

Newcomers arriving: 23,987 in 2021

Average household income: $77,700 in 2020

Average home price:  $449,290 in June 2022

Top universities:  University of Alberta, University of Calgary

Top colleges:  Bow Valley College, NAIT, Red Deer Polytechnic

Main industries: Oil, gas and mining, manufacturing, agriculture, finance, insurance and real estate, tourism, transportation and utilities, business and commercial services, education

Largest Cities: Edmonton, Calgary, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Red Deer

Provincial immigration site: Immigrate to Alberta

Foreign qualifications: Foreign Qualifications Recognition


Saskatchewan is known as a farming province. But those not cultivating the country’s grain are active in the province’s other popular industries: mining, manufacturing and oil and gas.

Saskatchewan’s flatness offers beautiful prairie vistas. It also has typical Canada winters and hot and humid summers.

Ever visited the Dead Sea? Saskatchewan has a similar body of water — Little Lake Manitou — with such a high mineral content that you can’t sink.

Population size: 1,186,308 as of 2022

Newcomers arriving:  7,321 in 2021

Average household income:  $67,700 in 2020

Average home price: $333,400 in June 2022

Top universities: University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina

Top colleges: Saskatchewan Polytechnic, Cumberland College, Southeast College

Main industries: Agriculture, energy, forestry, life sciences, manufacturing, mining, minerals, oil and gas

Largest cities: Regina, Saskatoon

Provincial immigration site: Immigrate to Saskatchewan

Foreign qualifications: Foreign Qualifications Recognition


Manitoba is a prairie province located in the center of Canada with several growing industries. The province is known for its advanced manufacturing and heavy-duty manufacturing. Those with experience in skilled trades are welcome.

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Manitoba has a mix of flat agricultural land and forests, a landscape that is apparently a fertile breeding ground for snakes. The province’s Narcisse Snake Dens, which are just north of Winnipeg, have the highest concentration of snakes in the world. More than 75,000 emerge from hibernation each spring.

Population size: 1,393,179 as of 2022

Newcomers arriving:  10,194 in 2021

Average household income: $63,000 in 2020

Average home price: $376,267 in June 2022

Top universities:  University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg

Top colleges: Assiniboine Community College, Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology

Main industries: Agriculture, advanced manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, heavy-duty vehicles and equipment, mining, the creative industries

Largest cities:  Winnipeg, Brandon, Steinbach

Provincial immigration site: Immigrate to Manitoba

Foreign qualifications: Foreign Qualifications Recognition


Ontario is Canada’s province with the highest population and the home of Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, and biggest city, Toronto. Toronto is home to many corporate headquarters and is also the most diverse city in Canada: Just under half of Torontonians are newcomers and more than 52% are visible newcomers.

Newcomers to Canada have the ability to connect with other communities of people from around the world in cities across the province. Ontario is also the home to some of Canada’s best universities, including the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo.

Ontario also has Canada’s only professional basketball team. The Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship in 2019.

Population size: 15,007,816 as of 2022

Newcomers arriving:  107,865 in 2021

Average household income: $70,100 in 2020

Average home price:  $881,475 in June 2022

Top universities: University of Toronto, Queens University, University of Waterloo, Western University, McMaster University

Top colleges:  Humber College, Canadore College, Conestoga College

Main industries: Agriculture, mining, automotive, technology, aerospace, life sciences, financial, retail

Largest cities: Toronto, Ottawa, London, Burlington, Waterloo, Hamilton, Guelph, Oakville

Provincial immigration site: Immigrate to Ontario

Foreign qualifications: Foreign Qualifications Recognition

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If you’re a French speaker, you’ll love Quebec, which is Canada’s francophone province. The French language is protected and more than three quarters of the population are French speakers. All signs must be in French and most school-age children attend French speaking schools.

The provincial government prioritizes French-speaking newcomers.

Quebec is also the world’s largest producer of maple syrup. Over 70% of global syrup production happens in the province, which was once the site of a maple syrup heist that saw more than $18 million in syrup go missing! Luckily, the thieves were later caught.

Population size: 8,653,184 as of 2022

Newcomers arriving:  33,385 in 2021

Average household income:  $59,700 in 2020

Average home price: $506,024 in June 2022

Top universities: University of Montreal, McGill University, Bishop’s University, Concordia University, Laval University

Top colleges: Dawson College, LaSalle College, Vanier College

Main industries: Technology, video games, electronics, food, life sciences, manufacturing, hydroelectricity, tourism, agriculture, forestry

Largest cities:  Montreal, Quebec, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivieres

Provincial immigration site: Immigrate to Quebec

Foreign qualifications: Foreign Qualifications Recognition

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is one of Canada’s Atlantic provinces, so fisheries are traditionally a big industry. However, shipbuilding and manufacturing are, too.

Because the province had a lot of Scottish immigrants, it has rich Gaelic and Celtic cultures. Nova Scotia’s universities are well known for certain programs outside Canada.

Like to watch the tides come in? The Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia has the world’s highest tides. Every day, 160 billion tonnes of seawater move in and out of the bay.

Population size:  1,007,049 as of 2022

Newcomers arriving:  3,536 in 2021

Average household income:  $57,500 in 2020

Average home price: $417,300 in June 2022

Top universities: Dalhousie University, Saint Mary’s University, Acadia University

Top colleges:  Nova Scotia Community College, College of Continuing Education

Main industries: Construction, manufacturing, real estate, fishing, agriculture, transportation, finance, film, natural resources

Largest cities: Halifax, Cape Breton, Sydney

Provincial immigration site: Immigrate to Nova Scotia

Foreign qualifications: Foreign Qualifications Recognition

New Brunswick

The beauty of New Brunswick is largely because of its amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean and rich forests. It’s also a heavily bilingual province with a large population of francophones. Expect cold winters with heavy storms here. You’ll need a good pair of boots!

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The province depends on its forestry, mining, fishing and tourism industries — as well as french fries. The small town of Florenceville-Bristol is often called the French Fry Capital of the World. About a third of the world’s frozen french fries are made there, and they even have a museum dedicated to the beloved spud, the aptly named Potato World.

Population size: 800,243 as of 2022

Newcomers arriving: 2,689 in 2021

Average household income:  $56,900 in 2020

Average home price:  $299,000 in June 2022

Top universities: University of New Brunswick, St. Thomas University, Mount Allison University

Top colleges: New Brunswick Community College, McKenzie College, Oulton College

Main industries: Forestry, mining, fishing, tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, services

Largest cities:  Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Dieppe

Provincial immigration site: Immigrate to New Brunswick

Foreign qualifications: Foreign Qualifications Recognition

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the smaller provinces in terms of population but still offers lots of opportunities and jobs in sectors like mining and manufacturing. The province is known for its regional culture, great seafood and friendly residents.

It’s also known for having been where the first transatlantic flight took off in 1919. John Alcock and Arthur Brown flew 16 hours from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Ireland.

Population size:  522,875 (as of 2022)

Newcomers arriving: 885 in 2021

Average household income:  $59,300 in 2020

Average home price: $281,300 in June 2022

Top universities:  Memorial University

Top colleges: College of the North Atlantic, Western College, Eastern College

Main industries: Mining, manufacturing, fishing, forestry, hydroelectricity

Largest cities: St. John’s, Corner Brook, Grand Falls-Windsor

Provincial immigration site: Immigrate to Newfoundland and Labrador

Foreign qualifications: Foreign Qualifications Recognition

Prince Edward Island

Famous for its lobster rolls and the Anne of Green Gables book series, P.E.I. is Canada’s smallest province. One of the longest bridges in the world attaches the island to the mainland. One downside to living here is a lack of access to certain specialized forms of health care. Residents are flown to the mainland for certain procedures.

Prince Edward Island is known for its tourism and fisheries industries. Despite what its name suggests, it isn’t one island. The province actually includes 232 islands. With all those islands, P.E.I. is also home to a large number of lighthouses. There are 63 lighthouses still standing, but only 35 are currently active.

Population size: 167,680 as of 2022

Newcomers arriving:  1,211 in 2021

Average household income: $59,400 in 2020

Average home price: $367,200 in June 2022

Top universities: University of Prince Edward Island

Top colleges:  Holland College, Maritime Christian College

Main industries: Agriculture, fisheries, tourism, aerospace, bioscience, information technology, renewable energy

Largest Cities: Charlottetown, Summerside, Stratford, Cornwall

Provincial immigration site: Immigrate to Prince Edward Island

Foreign qualifications: Foreign Qualifications Recognition


Well known from tales of the gold rush that took place in the Yukon, this territory’s biggest industry is still mining. However, tourism is also a big industry in Whitehorse and other areas. Visitors come from all over the world to see the Northern Lights and go dogsledding.

The Yukon has a significant Indigenous population and a rich cultural history. Like with all Canadian territories, it has a high cost of living. Most necessities have to be flown in during the winter, making for a hefty grocery bill. It also makes it hard to build new housing, which pushes up the price of homes.

Most people don’t know that the Yukon is home to the highest mountains in Canada. Mount Logan is the second highest mountain in North America.

Population size: 43,249 as of 2022

Newcomers arriving: 300 in 2021

Average household income: $49,200 in 2021

Average home price: $565,626 in June 2022

Top universities: Yukon University

Top colleges: Yukon College

Main industries: Mining, tourism, manufacturing, telecommunication, service

Largest cities: Whitehorse, Dawson, Watson Lake

Territorial immigration site: Immigrate to the Yukon

Foreign qualifications: Foreign Qualifications Recognition

Northwestern Territories

The Northwestern Territories is beautiful, but expensive. It’s a sparsely populated territory without access to high-speed internet in all locations. However, it has a rich tourism and mining industry and can have good opportunities for newcomers due to a lack of skilled workers and professionals.

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Just like the Yukon, the Northwestern Territories have a large Indigenous population. It has similar problems with high cost of living due to the difficulties of getting necessities to towns in the winter and constructing new homes.

In addition to its reputation for cold weather, the territory is also known as the Diamond Capital of North America. A number of diamond mines are located across the Northwest Territories.

Population size:  45,607 as of 2022

Newcomers arriving: 144 in 2021

Average household income:  $51,200 in 2021

Average home price:  $515,211 in June 2022

Top universities:  N/A

Top colleges: Aurora College

Main industries: Energy, fisheries, construction, mining, oil and gas, tourism, fur, manufacturing

Largest cities: Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Hay River, Inuvik

Territorial immigration site: Immigrate to the Northwestern Territories

Foreign qualifications: Foreign Qualifications Recognition


The northernmost territory, Nunavut has beautiful Arctic wildlife and scenery and is populated primarily by the Inuit people. The territory faces significant resource and development issues, as well as an extremely high cost of living due to the difficulties of getting necessary food and building materials into the territory.

While opportunities here are limited and access to things like post-secondary education and specialized medical care limited without travelling out-of-territory, there’s a need for certain professions in Nunavut.

Ever dream of going to Mars? Turns out Nunavut’s climate is so similar to what Mars’ climate is believed to be that the Haughton-Mars Project trains astronauts there for future Mars missions.

Population size: 40,103 as of 2022

Newcomers arriving:  21 in 2021

Average household income: $73,500 in 2021

Average home price:  No data available

Top universities: N/A

Top colleges: Nunavut Arctic College

Main industries: Mining, fishing, hunting trapping, construction, arts

Largest cities:  Iqaluit, Baker Lake, Cambridge Bay

Provincial immigration site: Immigrate to Nunavut

Foreign qualifications: Foreign Qualifications Recognition

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Quick links from this article

Provincial immigration sites

Foreign qualifications

Legal Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only. It is not to be relied upon as financial, tax or investment advice or guarantees about the future, nor should it be considered a recommendation to buy or sell. Information contained in this article, including information relating to interest rates, market conditions, tax rules, and other investment factors are subject to change without notice and The Bank of Nova Scotia is not responsible to update this information. All third party sources are believed to be accurate and reliable as of the date of publication and The Bank of Nova Scotia does not guarantee its accuracy or reliability. Readers should consult their own professional advisor for specific financial, investment and/or tax advice tailored to their needs to ensure that individual circumstances are considered properly and action is taken based on the latest available information.


Population stats: Population estimates, quarterly (

Immigrants: Immigrants arriving in Canada, by province 2020 | Statista

Average income of Provinces: Median household income by province as of 2020

Average income of Territories: Census Profile, 2021 Census of Population

Home prices: CREA | National Price Map

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