A close look at Canada reveals a country with as much diversity in its people as its landscape, and a host of cultural identities that influence and shape daily life. Misreading this complexity and the nuances of the True North’s provinces and cities, however, can spell disaster for companies trying to gain a foothold in Canada’s business and consumer communities.
While the stereotype may be Canadians living in vast open spaces, the truth according to Darrell J. Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs in Toronto, is “83 percent of Canadians live in a city. The last decade when half the population lived in rural areas was the 1920s.” Of particular note is that many of today’s residents are not native Canadians. “Canada accepts more immigrants per capita than any country in the world,” Bricker notes.
This nationwide diversity continues to influence Canada’s provinces and cities in terms of both culture and expectations. As with most other countries, the culture depends very much on where you happen to be standing. Here’s a brief exploration of six distinctive cities in the True North.
Located in Alberta, Calgary is this western province’s largest city and the fifth most populous city in Canada with just over a million people. Though it was often dubbed “Cowtown” due to the area’s concentration of cattle ranches, a more modern nickname is the “Heart of the New West.” Bricker says Calgary is not only the country’s fastest growing city, but compares it to Houston, Texas as a “very modern” and “edgy” oil and gas-centric city.
Since its emergence as a 1950s oil-era boom town, the region has cultivated a number of other business sectors and is home to many of the True North’s top corporate headquarters. Hosting the 1988 Olympic Winter Games also helped put the city on the map, garnering attention for its many charms. According to census figures of Canada’s tracked metropolitan areas, Calgary residents have enjoyed the country’s highest median household annual income (over $98,000) for the last six years.
Robert Duncan, produce manager at Worldwide Specialty Foods Ltd., considers Calgary a lively place with a high proportion of young people. “It’s a fairly new city compared to eastern cities,” he notes. “It’s known for its proximity to the Rocky Mountains—you can see them on a clear day.” Better yet, though are the available jobs. “There’s a lot of employment in Calgary,” he confirms, adding, “people from all over the country come here.”
Calgary is also home to the country’s current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. In terms of its politics, Bricker believes Calgary is “the center of conservatism in Canada,” comparing it to Midwest region of the United States in this respect. As far as real estate is concerned, the city sitting on the Bow River has one of the most expensive markets, coming in third behind Vancouver and Toronto.