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Things to Know About Ontario Canada Before Moving There

This mom of two has worked with non-profits to provide educational and health programs for local children, and improve the local workforce.

If you are considering moving to the Province of Ontario in Canada, this article is a concise guide to familiarize you with the basics you need to know. It includes important facts you may want to take into consideration before taking that next step.

Updated: June 2021

things-to-know-about-ontario

Table of Contents


Canadian Shield terrain in Northern Ontario

Canadian Shield terrain in Northern Ontario

Geography

Ontario is Canada’s most populated and second largest province, covering 1,076,395 sq. km (415,598 sq. miles). It would take over 30 hours to drive from one end to the other, east to west. Home to Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, the province offers a diverse range of landscapes, from the untamed wilderness of the north to the rolling hills of Ottawa Valley in the east and rich farmlands of the south.

Ontario is dotted with small and medium towns with larger cities acting as hubs for the smaller communities. The majority of larger communities are in Southern Ontario, including Toronto, Kitchener/Waterloo/Guelph, London and Windsor.

The north is sparsely populated due to the rough terrain of the Canadian Shield which covers most of Northern and Central Ontario. While the region is not conducive to agriculture, it is rich in minerals.

Youth playing hockey

Youth playing hockey

Recreation

Recreation spans from theatres and museums to organized sports and outdoor activities, including:

  • Baseball & Softball;
  • Hockey & Ringette;
  • Curling;
  • ATV trails;
  • Fishing & Hunting;
  • Sailing, Kayaking & Canoeing;
  • Bike & Hiking trails;
  • Downhill & Cross-county skiing;
  • Snow-shoeing;
  • Golf;
  • Horseback riding; and
  • Camping.

For the more adventurous, Ontario also offers opportunities for zip lining, spelunking, rock climbing, white water rafting.


Family Attractions

The province has several theme parks. Both Canada’s Wonderland just outside of Toronto and Marineland in the city of Niagara Falls attract masses from across the globe. Other exciting family-oriented parks include, Ontario Place, Great Wolf Lodge, Logos Land, and Santa’s Village.

The world-renown horseshoe shaped waterfalls of Niagara Falls is Ontario’s most famous natural attraction, offering rides on The Maid of the Mist, museums tours and many tourist-oriented activities.

Pembroke Waterfront Festival

Pembroke Waterfront Festival

Cultural Attractions

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The annual Stratford Shakespeare Festival, located picturesque Stratford, presents plays from Shakespeare and other top-notch writers.

Toronto and Ottawa both offer theatre and broadway productions, music festivals, plus a vast array of museums and cultural events. Even smaller communities usually boast local theatres and festivals.

Climate

Despite popular belief, Canadians are not snowbound year-round. No sled-dog teams and igloos for the residents of Ontario. While temperatures can plummet as far as - 40° in the northern region, summer heat can climb to 38° C (100.4 F) these are the extremes. Averages depend on the region you are considering.

Southern Ontario has warm, humid summers and cold winters. Northern Ontario has shorter warm summers and severely cold winters. Central and Eastern Ontario have hot, humid summers and long, harsh winters.

Penny for Your Thoughts

As of 2013, the Canadian government has removed pennies from Canadian currency. While folks using debit or credit cards will pay the exact amount owed, retailers round up or round down to the nearest nickel for consumers using cash.

Economy

With 5 of the world’s major automakers and the only nano-technology facility working with quantum computing, Ontario's industry is on the cutting edge. Leading companies in software, fibre optics, advanced technology and a stable infrastructure help the province attract new and foreign business. In fact, foreign countries invested nearly $550 billion in 2009.

Manufacturing sales topped $540 billion in 2010, generating $1.6 trillion in economic activity. The unemployment rate as of March 2012 was 7.4%, the lowest it’s been in years. All of this makes Ontario one of the fastest growing G7 economies.


Taxes

It has been calculated that the average citizen of Ontario works 6 months of the year just to pay for taxes. Ontario has recently combined their Provincial Sales Tax (PST) with Canada’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) to create a Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) of 13% which applies to almost every item or service a person can purchase. This tax is even included on utility bills.

Ontario has recently begun offering a multitude of tax rebates, credits and incentives for Ontario residents, including:

BenefitsRefundable CreditsNon-refundable Credits

Ontario Child Benefit

Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit

Community Small Business Investment Fund Program

Ontario Child Care Supplement for Working Families (OCCS)

Ontario Focused Flow-Through Share Tax Credit

Dividend Tax Credit

Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS)

Political Contribution Tax Credit

Labour Sponsored Investment Fund Program

Ontario Sales Tax Transition Benefit

Ontario Sales Tax Credit

Ontario Tax Reduction

Ontario Senior Homeowners' Property Tax Grant

Northern Ontario Energy Credit

Electric Vehicle Incentive Program

Ontario Trillium Benefit

Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit

Ontario Clean Energy Benefit (OCEB)

 

Ontario Opportunities Fund

IMPORTANT

You can learn more by visiting the Ontario Minister of Finance website. Visit the Ontario Benefits Directory for information about specific benefits:

Skilled Trades are in high demand

Skilled Trades are in high demand

Employment

Minimum and Living Wages

As of June 2021, the minimum wage in Ontario is $14.25 per hour. Beginning in 2017, the province pushed to increase minimum wage from $11.60 in the effort to close the gap between minimum wage (what the majority of people make) and living wage (what it actually costs to live in Ontario).

Living wage for Ontario spans between $16.33 - $22.08, well above minimum wage paid.

For information on hours, days off, over time, vacations, and more, you can read the Ministry of Labour's Hours of Work and Overtime Pay Standards.


Job Pool

While jobs in the IT, service, and hospitality sectors are increasing, manufacturing has declined. This has created an increase of workers in the job pool who have a lower education than what is needed in the job market, because many dropped out of high school to begin work at a factory. The province offers apprenticeship incentives, education upgrading, and specialty programs to help workers transition to new careers, free of charge.


Shortages

Ontario is experiencing a shortage in many of its skilled trades. As Baby Boomers retire, there are few experienced workers to take their place. The biggest gaps in skilled trades include:


  • Doctors
  • Registered Nurses
  • Registered Practical Nurses
  • Advanced Care Paramedics
  • Personal Support Workers
  • Certified Welders
  • Radiographers
  • Millwrights
  • Mechanics
  • Civil Engineers
  • Licensed Engineers
  • Stationary Engineers
  • Engineering Techs
  • Industrial Electricians


things-to-know-about-ontario

Healthcare

Many foreigners believe that Canada has universal healthcare which covers all medical procedures and medications. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The term "universal health care" does not mean that it covers all things for everyone. While Ontario residents are covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) and receive a health card, what is covered by OHIP has been steadily decreasing.

Doctor and hospital visits are covered, as are some procedures and medication, but most medical supplies are not.


Not Covered

Some of the things not covered by OHIP:

  • Syringes and other diabetic supplies, such as lancets, glucometers;
  • Eye exams and glasses;
  • Dental visits, cleanings, fillings, and dentures;
  • CPAP machines;
  • Hearing aids;
  • Compression stockings;
  • Celiac testing;
  • Crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs;
  • Home care or long-term care facilities.

This is not a complete list, but it gives your an idea of what to expect.

There are separate drug programs you can apply to. For more information on Health Care Credits and Benefits, click HERE.


The Big C

A lot of people ask if OHIP covers cancer treatments? The answer is both "yes" and "no". Cancer patients who require radiation or intravenous chemotherapy may get treatment for free, but those who are prescribed oral cancer drugs have to pay thousands of dollars each month for their medication.

If you qualify, Cancer Care Ontario's New Drug Funding Program states that they cover the cost of most injectable cancer drugs.


Doctor Visits

Need to see a doctor today? Good luck. The province is experiencing a doctor shortage which is felt much more in rural communities where options are limited. In fact, some rural areas forbid citizens from seeking doctors outside their community to avoid overburdening the doctors who are available. This can be very frustrating if you would like the freedom to choose someone with expertise in the field you need (ie. high risk pregnancies or pediatrics), the gender of your physician, or simply find someone suited to your personality.

In 2019 when Covid shut the province down, phone appointments have become more available for those without doctors.

If you're lucky enough to find a family doctor, they most likely don’t do same-day bookings. If you need to see a doctor right away, you’ll have to visit the walk-in clinic (if your community has one) or hospital for a non-emergency visit and wait 3-6 hours. Monday and Tuesday are the busiest days, so "try not to be sick at the start of the week" is the advice given by many medical professionals.

If it’s an emergency, get yourself to the hospital where the wait is 4-8 hours.

things-to-know-about-ontario

The Cost of Living

No joke about it, things are expensive in Ontario. Everything from groceries, clothing, gas (petrol), housing, and taxes will shock a lot of foreigners. Since the hit of Covid, prices have doubled and, in some cases, tripled.

It is extremely difficult for the average family to live on the income of one person. With a $2-$6 gap between minimum wage and living wage, almost all families have both parents working full-time.

Service Providers

Major service providers for phone, cable, electricity, and even internet have a monopoly in their field. They commonly “rent” out services to smaller companies so that customers feel they have a choice in service providers. For example, all phone service is run through Bell Canada. Smaller companies, such as Distributel can rent from Bell to provide customers with phone and internet service, however they are still bound by Bell’s service, pricing and infrastructure.


Hydro Electricity Time-of-Use Pricing

Electricity is provided by Hydro One which charges Time-of-Use pricing, ranging from 5.3¢ per kilowatt hour (kWh) to 9.9¢ and changes seasonally. Charges also include a delivery fee (which is generally more expensive than your actual hydro usage) and a debt reduction fee where Hydro One charges its customers to reduce the debt they created before they switched over to the name Hydro One.

things-to-know-about-ontario

Even communities that have their own power generation supplement their supply with power from Hydro One and, of course, are subject to the Hydro One fees. Customers living in those communities are doubly charged for delivery as they have to pay the fee for both Hydro One and their local provider. Hydro bills can quickly get out of hand in these communities, skyrocketing to hundreds of dollars each month.


Cell Phone Services

Foreigners who are used to Pay-As-You-Go cell phone service will no longer have this option. While cell phone providers in Ontario may call their service Pay-As-You-Go or something similar, they each operate on monthly fee services that may or may not have a term contract attached.

Also be aware that some companies only offer service within the metropolitan areas, such as Toronto or Ottawa, but not outside of their city limits. Always check their coverage maps and the details of the plans.

Food Shopping

Unfortunately, locally grown foods are generally more expensive than food shipped in from outside of the country. Even if bought directly from local farmers, the prices are set to be on par (at the very least) than what you'd pay at the grocery store.

Fruits and vegetables arrive before they are ripe and mature in the stores without the benefit of the sunshine or nutrients necessary to create the proper flavor and nutrition value.

Specialty foods such as Halal meats, gluten-free, and lactose-free foods are becoming more available outside the metropolitan areas.


Fresh local foods

Fresh local foods

Education

Some school boards have started to implement full-day kindergarten and a staggered bells system where different grades start (and end) the school day at different times. These new systems have received mixed reviews from families. Some parents and students find that these systems work well with their family dynamics while others find them stressful.

There are many post-secondary options for those wishing to or further their education, plus apprenticeship incentives available from the government for those who want to train in a skilled trade.