What’s not to like about a country that is consistently ranked as having one of the highest qualities of life on Earth? Every rose has its thorn, as they say, and this list reveals that there are just as many drawbacks to living in Canada as there are selling points.
Pro: Universal health care
It isn’t perfect, but Canada’s health-care system has long been based on medical necessity, rather than the ability to pay for care. Indeed, the Canada Health Act of 1984 ensures that provincial and territorial health plans are administered and operated on a non-profit basis; that plans insure all medically necessary services provided by hospitals, medical practitioners and dentists working within a hospital setting; that health insurance coverage is provided on uniform terms and conditions; and that all insured persons have reasonable access to medically necessary hospital and physician services without financial or other barriers.
Con: Health-care wait times
Canadians experience relatively long delays to see medical specialists. According to a 2017 report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, 56 per cent had to wait longer than four weeks, compared with the international average of 36 per cent. A similar trend applies to emergency department visits, with 29 per cent of Canadians waiting four hours or longer to be seen by a health-care provider. The international average? Just 11 per cent.
Pro: Good health
What does universal health care do for Canadians? Of the 38 nationalities represented by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canadians rank second when it comes to self-reported health. When asked, “How is your health in general?” 88 per cent said they were in good health, which is much higher than the OECD average of 69 per cent.
Con: Gender inequity
While far from the worst OECD nation in terms of male-female equality, Canada fares relatively poorly in areas including work/life balance, unemployment, personal earnings, and notably “years in education,” where the country comes in last among the 38 OECD countries.
Pro: Winter sports and recreation
From hockey and curling to snowboarding and cross-country skiing, the climate and landscape of Canada make it ideal for any sport that relies on snow and/or ice. No wonder the country has hosted two Winter Olympics and ranks fifth in the total number of medals won at the Games.
Con: Cold weather
With the exception of the west coast, average winter temperatures across Canada tend to dip well below freezing. The nation’s capital city, Ottawa, provides a chilly example: from November through March, the average daily mean temperature never climbs above 0 C, with January lows averaging a frigid -26 C.
Pro: White Christmas
Much of Canada is covered with snow over the winter (if not the spring and fall as well). This can look very picturesque, especially over the December holidays. The country’s snowiest city—Gander, Newfoundland—sees an average annual accumulation of more than four metres.
Snow-covered towns and landscapes can look very pretty, to be sure, but snow-covered windshields, sidewalks and roads start to get tiresome after a while. Indeed, flakes fall on Val-D’Or, Quebec, an average of 103 days out of the year, while snow covers the ground in Yellowknife, NWT, for more than half the year.
Pro: Maple syrup
It may not flow from kitchen taps, but deliciously sweet maple syrup is far more plentiful in Canada than in any other country. It accounts for 71 per cent of the global market, with Canadian producers exporting 45 million kilograms of maple products in 2016. That’s enough to drench a LOT of pancakes.
Con: Winter fruit
Canadian vegetarians suffer in winter when most fruits and vegetables are imported from as far away as South America. How fresh can a cantaloupe be, after all, after travelling 10,000-plus kilometres?
Pro: Cost of gasoline
Prices range quite drastically across the country, but overall Canada ranks 14th globally when it comes to the average cost of gasoline. It ranks even lower—eighth—in terms of gasoline affordability, with just 0.75 per cent of a day’s wages required to purchase a litre of gas.
Pro: Natural beauty
Canada’s 11 natural World Heritage Sites, 47 national parks and hundreds of provincial preserves pay homage to a vast landscape that encompasses just about every landform and climate on Earth—mountains, rainforests, tundra, badlands, grasslands, the list goes on—as well as myriad species of majestic flora and fauna.
Con: Mischievous (and even dangerous) wildlife
On one hand, animals such as racoons, squirrels, deer and black bears are infamous for making serious messes of household waste, gardens and even domestic pets. On the other, large carnivorous species such as grizzly bears, polar bears and cougars do attack and occasionally kill, unfortunate humans.
Not only is Canada a top-performing OECD country in reading literacy, math and sciences, but 91 per cent of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, which is much higher than the OECD average of 74 per cent.
Con: Travel times
As abundant as Canada’s natural beauty is, it can take an awfully long time to get from one scenic site to another. Take for instance, the distance between the Kluane and Terra Nova national parks. It would take nearly four days, driving non-stop, to cover the 7,999 kilometres separating the country’s westernmost and easternmost preserves. Even neighbouring towns tend to be further apart in the world’s second-largest country, which helps explain Canada’s 55th-place ranking when it comes to the average percentage of income spent on gasoline.
Pro: Nearby wilderness
Getting away from it all is easy in Canada. All of the country’s largest cities are less than an hour’s drive from scenic preserves where signs of human presence are few and far between. Venture a little further on foot, on a bike, on a snowmobile or in a canoe, and you may not see another person for days.
Con: Pricey flights
Canadians pay some of the highest air travel prices in the world, with the country being the only major air market that lacks an ultra-low-cost airline. The average flight cost per 100 kilometres of travel is well over $20, while in Malaysia, one of the cheapest places to fly, the cost is just over $4.
Canada ranks fourth when it comes to accepting permanent immigrants—the planned intake for 2020 is around 340,000—and one of the reasons for the country’s popularity among new arrivals has to be its policy of multiculturalism. This promotes cultural diversity, as well as equality and mutual respect among ethnic and cultural groups.
Con: National identity
The flipside of multiculturalism is that Canada’s national identity isn’t as clearly defined, or as robust, as that of nations such as the United States, France or Britain. Indeed, when Canadians were asked to complete the phrase “As Canadian as…” the winning phrase ended up being “As Canadian as possible under the circumstances.”
Canadians’ famous politeness is revealed by the penchant for saying “sorry” in just about every situation, insisting that someone else take the last pancake, restaurant discounts for well-behaved children, the list goes on.
Pro: Law and order
Canada ranked eighth in the 2018 Global Law and Order survey, which asked 148,000 people around the world to evaluate how safe they feel in their respective countries. Eighty-four per cent of Canadians surveyed said they felt safe, with 82 per cent saying local law enforcement has their confidence.
Con: High tax rate
On average, Canadian wage earners took home 58.13 per cent of their salaries in 2014, which was the fifth-lowest percentage among G20 nations.
Pro: Employment market
Canada’s job market stands out. Everything from employment rates to gender equity beats OECD averages, with just 0.8 per cent of Canadians being unemployed for a year or longer. The OECD average is nearly triple this amount.
Con: Winter isolation
Canada’s long, cold winter can be especially isolating for residents of smaller towns and rural areas. Poor road conditions and freezing temperatures conspire to keep many Canadians cooped up, giving rise to the expression “cabin fever.” This is even worse in parts of northern Canada where the sun never rises in the dead of winter.
Pro: Rooms (and toilets) of one’s own
Canada is top-ranked in just one OECD category: “Rooms per person.” On average, Canadians have 2.5 rooms each, compared to the OECD average of 1.8 rooms per person. These spaces are almost always equipped with basic facilities, with 99.8 per cent of Canadians living in dwellings with private access to an indoor flushing toilet, compared to the OECD average of 97.9 per cent.
Con: Pricey real-estate
On average, Canadian households spend 22 per cent of their gross adjusted disposable income on keeping roofs over their heads. Only 11 OECD nationalities spend more, with the average being 20 per cent.