City Scope

Toronto, Ottawa, Southern Ontario, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon:  Which city is for you?  Read on for an overview of the city selected. 


Smoother Sailing

-Fiona Wren


Calgary's pace has slowed, but there's still growth on the horizon.

the rough economic seas of the past year have touched every city in canada, and while some have experienced extreme swells and dips, others have had a smoother ride. calgarians have been relatively lucky – the city has remained a vibrant, attractive destination for businesses and residents alike.

calgary’s vitality could be attributed to its young population. With an average age of 34, calgary residents are among the most entrepreneurial in canada. the city’s workforce has the highest productivity and participation rates in the country, and trend-watchers predict that, even in the face of a volatile economy, the city will continue to grow.

calgary’s economy is closely tied tothe energy sector and in the past few years, things in this city have been hot, hot, hot. the recession, some experts point out, has really only served to slow things here down to a more normal pace. calgary economic Development continues to report that the city is still growing, with healthy job prospects, high average weekly earnings, continued construction, and investment in long-term projects.

house prices, like job prospects, are still a hot topic of conversation in calgary. the average house price rose slightly to around $446,000 in august 2009, marking the first increase since February 2008 and continuing calgary’s reputation as one of the priciest markets in canada. Summer 2009 also saw less inventory and fewer sales, though experts predict the market will remain stable and balanced. condo minium construction has slowed considerably, and buyers can thank market saturation for lower prices this year – in august 2009, the average condo netted $283,330. though housing starts were down in 2009, there’s still plenty of choice for those looking for a new community in any quadrant of the city, or new construction in older, established neighbourhoods with easy access to downtown, where infills have become popular.

the less frenetic pace of the market has meant some good news for renters, in that vacancy rates have eased. calgary’s inner-city neighbourhoods are filled with apartment-to-condo conversions. canada Mortgage and housing corporation (cMhc) estimates that calgarians renting a two-bedroom apartment could expect to pay about $1,100 a month in 2009, and that while rents are still among the highest in the country, vacancy rates eased slightly to just over four per cent this past april.

calgary’s previously hot job market has not been immune to the economic downturn. the city’s economy relies heavily on the energy sector, and a lower demand for energy commodities has resulted in fewer jobs in oil and gas. In May 2008, the city’s unemployment rate rose to 6.6 per cent, though summer 2009 has seen a rebound. even with fewer jobs, average weekly earnings for albertans rose 5 per cent year over year. a solid job market continues to attract people from across the country. Still, many expect that calgary’s status as a “head office” city will help bolster its recovery. and some see the slowdown as an opportunity to set things right after the struggle to find employees – many businesses are using the time to build a solid base that will help them weather future storms.

When the workday is over, calgarians have plenty of options when it comes to leisure time. the city boasts a network of bicycle paths and trails, and over 8,000 hectares of parks and open spaces offer a way to escape without leaving the city. the mountains, with their resort towns, ski hills, and hiking trails are just a short drive away. calgary’s vibrant arts scene includes local theatres, opera, a philharmonic, literary and film festivals, and major concerts. areas like kensington and uptown 17th avenue are host to an array of boutiques and restaurants. and with the city’s booming population comes major retailers, including high-end brands like Sephora and coach. holt renfrew recently expanded its downtown location, becoming an anchor for eaton centre. a $200 million expansion of one of the city’s flagship malls, chinook centre, includes plans for Western canada’s first apple Store.

all signs point to growth. as calgary deals with its graduation to “big city” status, one thing’s clear: opportunities abound for work and play here – something calgarians have known for years. MTA

The Good on Calgary

-Yvonne Jeffery


Your guide to goods, services and more.

Alcohol
alberta’s legal drinking age is 18. alcohol is sold through private liquor stores, often located near major grocery stores. restaurants must be licenced to serve alcohol; you can bring your own wine to some, but they’ll likely charge a corkage fee. Banks Major banks are cIbc, bank of Montreal (bMo), rbc royal bank, Scotiabank and tD canada trust. alternatives include First calgary credit union and alberta treasury board branches. operating hours vary, but are typically Monday to thursday from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday to 5 or 6 p.m. all are closed on Sundays and holidays. to open an account, you need two pieces of ID – one must be a canadian driver’s licence, birth certificate or passport, a citizenship or Naturalization certificate, a Permanent resident or citizenship card, or a Social Insurance Number (S.I.N.) card. Visit canadian bankers association at cba.ca for more information.

Business Hours
average workdays are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., though some government offices close at 4 p.m. Smaller stores and shops are usually open Monday to Saturday from about 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; larger stores, including shopping malls and supermarkets, may open earlier and stay open until 9 p.m. Smaller stores may close on Sundays, but many others open from at least noon to 5 p.m. Some convenience stores, fast-food restaurants and drugstores are open 24 hours.

Electricity
the electrical standard is 110 volts ac, although electric stove and dryer circuits generally run on 220 volts ac. Dual-voltage appliances should work, but you may need a plug adaptor to convert to the North american flatparallel-prongs design.

Emergency
Dial 911 for immediate police, fire or ambulance assistance. For non-emergencies, call: calgary Police Service at 403-266-1234; calgary Fire Department at 311 (403-268-2489 from outside calgary); or emergency Medical Services at 403-261-4000.

Employment
If you’re from outside canada, check the Government of canada Services for Non-canadians website at canadainternational.gc.ca. to apply for a Social Insurance Number (needed to work in canada), access the job bank, or research workplace and employer information, check with Service canada (servicecanada.gc.ca; 1-800-622-6232) for the nearest calgary office. the provincial government offers an excellent online employment resource at alis.gov.ab.ca/careershop and a career information hotline at 1-800-661-3753. organizations that help newcomers with the alberta job market, job searches and language skills include:
• alberta association of Immigrant Serving agencies: aaisa.ca; 403-290-5758
• calgary yWca: ywcaofcalgary.com; 403-263-1550
• Directions for Immigrants in trades and Professional careers: ditpc.ca; 403-297-2555
other job websites include:
• calgaryjobshop.ca
http://www.hotjobs.ca/
• jobshark.ca
• monster.ca
• working.com
• workopolis.com

grocery Stores
big-box grocers include the real canadian Superstore and costco. the former is known for its comparatively low prices while the latter requires you to be a member. Major supermarkets include co-op, Safeway and Sobey’s, all of which include pharmacies, and some of which include liquor stores and/or gas bars. Most major supermarkets open at 8 a.m. and close at 10 or 11 p.m. Farmers’ markets include the calgary Farmers Market at currie barracks (calgaryfarmersmarket.ca; 403-244-4548), crossroads Flea Market (crossroadsmarket.ca; 403-291-5208), and the Sweetgrass Market (sweetgrassmarket.ca;403-240-2664). Smaller, seasonal farmers’ markets operate in various locations around the city.

immigration Assistance
the citizenship and Immigration canada website (cic.gc.ca) provides information and community resources. the alberta association of Immigrant Serving agencies (aaisa.ca; 403-290-5758) offers links to various organizations. In calgary, dial 311 for 24-hour help with city services (or check calgary.ca), and 211 for community agency information.

Language
english is the major language spoken, with French also offered at federal government offices. the calgary board of education (http://www.cbe.ab.ca/) offers French immersion education programs from kindergarten through grade 12 and bilingual education programs in chinese (Mandarin), Spanish, and German. Second-language and cultural education programs are available in cree/blackfoot and Japanese, the Greater Southern F

 

rancophone School board also offers immersion programs in French.

Housing
the housing market in calgary is very tight; rents are among canada’s highest while vacancy rates are among the lowest. typical rents in calgary are around $940 a month for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,100 for a two-bedroom. housing prices vary greatly depending on area and type of home; the average price is approximately $430,000, a drop of eight per cent from last year. low-cost housing is in particularly short supply. For rental listings, check newspaper classifieds; search the Internet using “calgary apartment rental” as a search term, or check sites like rent Spot (rentspot.com) or rent Faster (rentfaster.ca). Some landlords post signs in windows and on lawns, or advertise through real estate offices. For general landlord and tenant information in alberta, visit servicealberta.ca or call 1-877-427-4088. For low-cost rentals, check out the calgary housing registry Network (lowcostrent.org; 403-277-7368). buyers can access a complete listing of properties at mls.ca, but you may want a real-estate sales
representative to help guide you through the process, especially as calgary’s housing market is one of canada’s most active. Visit the calgary real estate board at creb.com. canada Mortgage and housing corporation (cmhc.ca) provides valuable information online. homebuyers will find resources for purchasing a home, hiring an inspector and calculating mortgages. renters will find details about landlord and tenant responsibilities, deposits, rental agreements, and rent payments and increases.

newspapers
the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun are the city’s two major dailies, along with canada’s two national newspapers, the Globe and Mail and the National Post. International newspapers are often available at specialty stores and the airport.

Public transportation
calgary transit operates bus service throughout the city with fares of $2.50 ($1.75 for youths). community shuttle buses serve newer communities not yet populated enough to support full-size bus service. calgary transit also operates a fleet of light rail Vehicles (lrVs) servicing 37 stations on two lines; the ctrain’s fare system is honour-based. Go to calgarytransit.com for a trip planner and other transit information. call calgary transit at 403-262-1000.

Restaurants
calgary’s diverse demographics have ensured a range of dining opportunities, from western canadian to latin american, african, asian and fusion cuisine. For restaurant listings and reviews, check out City Palate magazine, local newspapers and the Government-run website dinealberta.ca.

Shopping
crossIron Mills, which opened in august just north of calgary, is alberta’s largest shopping centre. chinook centre, one of calgary’s largest malls, is in the midst of a major expansion. In the city’s northwest, Market Mall boasts a mixture of high-end and medium range shops, as does Southcentre in the southeast. the downtown core’s tD Square, calgary eaton centre, and bankers’ hall all offer a broad range of big names and local labels. Seventeenth avenue, just south of downtown, combines smaller, local shops with pubs and restaurants, as does kensington, just north of downtown. Major drugstore chains include Shoppers Drug Mart (shoppersdrugmart.ca), Super Drug Mart (superdrugmart.ca) and london Drugs (londondrugs.com).

Statutory Holidays
Statutory holidays in alberta are New year’s Day (January 1), Family Day (third Monday in February), Good Friday and easter Monday (late March or early april), Victoria Day (Monday before May 25), canada Day (July 1), heritage Day (first Monday in august), labour Day (first Monday in September), thanksgiving (second Monday in october), remembrance Day (November 11), christmas Day (December 25) and boxing Day (December 26).

taxes
albertans pay a goods and services tax (GSt) of five per cent, except on basic groceries, prescription drugs and health aids such as hearing aids and their batteries, or eyeglasses. resale homes are exempt from GSt, but new homes are not. alberta has a four per cent tourism levy on hotel rooms, but no provincial sales tax (PSt).

telephones
the introduction of the 587 area code in alberta means you must dial the area code along with the phone number, keying in 10 digits to make a local call. For long-distance calls, dial 1 plus the 10-digit telephone number. 1-800, 1-866, 1-877, 1-888 and 1-310 numbers are toll-free. For directory assistance, dial 411 (this costs 75 cents). For international calls, dial 011, followed by the country code (listed in the front of telephone directories; canada’s country code is 1) and the local number. For international operator assistance, dial 0.

Weather
temperatures can reach +30o celsius and above in summer, and -30o celsius and below in winter, although calgary’s four-season climate is usually more moderate, with dry conditions that make temperatures feel less extreme. calgary’s chinook winds often warm up winter days. MTA