So, tell me about Toronto

Wow, it looks like there are a few of these threads right now. I’ll add one more.

So, I’m a soon to be unemployed software engineer, living in Los Angeles. I have a one- year-old son. I’ve lived in LA for 12 years, and in SoCal for most of my life.

Given the employment situation, and the difficulties inherent to raising a child in LA (the school system here is not so good, amongst other problems), my wife and I have been considering moving for a long time.

The current front runner is Toronto, Ontario, CA. I’ve been there once, but what I mostly remember is that the drinking age was a very reasonable 19 (I think; I was 19 at the time and they seemed okay with serving me in bars), that the city is disgracefully pretty, and that there was both a good museum and a beautiful college campus.

So, tell me the good and bad things about Toronto. I remember there being a good mass transit system; does my memory deceive me? I’ve got job leads up there (a former comrade is there), but won’t move until I’ve actually found something. Rumor has it the employment situation for tech types is decent – is that true? How do Canadians feel about Americans coming in and stealing their jobs?

I have a certain detachment and inherent politeness (in real life) that has lead those Canadians I’ve worked with to assure me that I’d make a good Canadian, so I’m not that worried about the culture shock. I could use four seasons a year, so don’t worry too much about the bit that it probably isn’t 80 degrees in Toronto today. Any other opinions would be very helpful, though.

I want to know how easy or difficult it is to live in Toronto – especially given that we have a one-year-old. I know this is not an easy concept to convey but any attempt would be appreciated.

My girlfriend is from Toronto; I recently met her family there, and she took me around the city.

The transit system appeared to be pretty decent. There’s a “Go” train system that runs from the suburbs to the city; the city itself has its own, internal rail system. The most efficient rail I’ve ever taken was in Washington D.C.; Toronto’s seemed pretty similar to me in terms of being able to figure out where you want to go.

My biggest gripe: the freeways get a little intense there. Apparently there’s a set of three highways (the 401, the 403 and the QEW) that all intersect at once, so it can be very frustrating trying to figure out how to stay on the one you want.

I live in Toronto and have no complaints (Except for the highway system). I don’t have children so I don’t know how that would impact my life but the friends that do have young children seem happy enough with the way things are. I wouldn’t worry too much about being an American coming to Canada…it is a huge multi-cutural city no-one will notice. Maybe you should start practising saying “Eh?” at the end of your sentences…it’s a perfect disguise,eh?

Read this book, so you’ll be good and ready to blend in here. Learn to say “I’m sorry” in 12 different, truly Canadian ways, buy the official Canadian uniform (toque, flannel shirt…), and learn who to hate and who to love. Learn the Canadian National Anthem (AKA the Theme Song from Hockey Night in Canada), and learn to say eh, and not “hey”. :slight_smile:

The highway system is a bitch - the intersection is worse than described, now that they 407 ETR has been added to the mix :rolleyes:

Another Torontonian checking in.

Toronto is big, underfunded, dirty, resented by many other parts of Canada, bleak during the winter, and has some of the ugliest streetscapes I’ve ever seen.

On the other hand, it is diverse, and has many intriguing neighbourhoods, at least a dozen daily newspapers, a decent transit system that does more with less than almost anywhere else in North America, a car-free neighbourhood on the Islands, three universities, five colleges, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Ontario College of Art and Design, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the only shoe museum in North America.

English is the lingua franca of the city. But almost half the residents have another language as their mother tongue. Expect to hear just about every other language around you, including Albanian, Esperanto, and Tibetan.

Events each year include Caribana, the Beaches Jazz Festival, the Pride Day parade, the Molson Indy, the Canadian National Exhibition, the Royal Winter Fair.

Many of the tech jobs are not in the City of Toronto itself, but in the surrounding regions and cities, especially Mississauga and Markham. The financial jobs tend to be downtown.

Schools and other social services have been underfunded for years by an ideologically-purist neoconservative government that has done everything it can to reduce government spending, even if that hurts people, er, I mean, “special-interest groups”.

The govenrnment leader recently stepped down, and his successor has been significantly more compassionate. There’s an election coming though…

The City of Toronto website.
An unofficial transit enthusiasts’ site.
Toronto Tourism
Toronto Civic Action Network.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The national broadcaster. About midway between the BBC and PBS. Runs two English-language and two French-language radio networks, plus English- and French-language TV channels.

The Weather Network’s forecast for Toronto.

Banks… instead of the many local banks found in the States, there are Just A Few Big Banks, which all have branches all over the country. This has enabled such things as a national debit-card network, to which all the banks and most merchants, even small convenience stores, subscribe. You use the same card at the money machine for withdrawls as at the merchant for a sale.

Toronto daily newspapers, in English:

The Toronto Star. The largest English newspaper. Centrist for Canada, which would probably be considered leftist in parts on the States. Founded to promote peoples’ welfare, and routinely runs campaigns to push for things like more funding and greater legislative autonomy for the cities.

The Toronto Sun. A right-wing tabloid. Lurid headlines, tits, beer, sports, cars, stereo ads. Some good political reading though. Consistently favours cops and personal responsibility.

The Globe and Mail. The business Paper of Record. Canada’s equivalent to The New York Times, but with better international reporting and a surprising number of socially-progressive articles.

The National Post. A right-wing upstart recently started by social conservatives. Sometimes takes a “Christian” stance on issues, which is decidedly unusual in the public sphere in Canada. I don’t read it much anymore; I was turned off by the really-badly-drawn cartoons.

In Chinese:
Sing Tao.
Ming Pao.
World Journal.

In Spanish:
El Popular.

“Alternative” weeklies:

Another media links page.

"Toronto is big, underfunded, dirty, resented by many other parts of Canada, bleak during the winter, and has some of the ugliest streetscapes I’ve ever seen. "

sunspace gave a pretty good TO introduction, but was a bit more gentle than I would have been. I would emphasize “bleak” and “ugly”

But I am coming from living in Vancouver for 10 years. I like the outdoors and photography, so beautiful and varied landscapes are inportant to me personally.

Say, have you thought about Vancouver? It is BEAUTIFUL and cheaper than Toronto. You’ve got the mountains, the ocean, rainforest, beaches . . .I only left because I am doing my MA elsewhere.

I can’t say what your job prospects are, but I find it to be a much more user-friendly city. But it is less cosmopolitan, so if it is ultra-urban you are looking for, it may not be the best place for you.

good luck whatever you decide!

by the way - - don’t worry about stealing our jobs. we probably owe you.

the U.S. brain drain has been a huge problem for Canadian employers for years. seems Canadians have figured out it is easier to make big bucks in certain industries in the U.S. than to try to scrape by at home.

my sister is a good example - she was at the top of her class and couldn’t find a decent job here. too much competition. She was headhunted by a U.S. company and is now making a decent living in Texas. And I can’t count the number of friends I have lost to Seattle and New York.

Be friendly and leave your gun behind, and you should have no problem making friends :stuck_out_tongue:

Toronto is generally a pleasant place, worthy of its 16th world ranking. Cultural, vibrant, full of genuinely nice people and, for its size, extremely safe and friendly.

It’s a little more expensive, especially in terms of real estate, but still much cheaper than American equivalents. Many people from Toronto know surprisingly little about Canada outside the city. I live 80km north of TO and visit it regularly, but am happy to be away from the taxes and disgraceful city politics.

On the whole, though, you have made a good choice and will enjoy living there. My brother and sister both do. It has a lot going for it. It is a little self-indulgent, but really should be better recognized.

I’m currently living in Toronto, but lived most of my life elsewhere. Much has already been said in the thread but I’ll add a few things and drone on a bit to try and wrap everything together:


  1. As big cities go, Toronto is not dirty or ugly. It’s not beautiful, but you won’t find any nicer looking cities on this continent without going to a substantially smaller town, like Victoria. It does have those goddamned streetcar wires everywhere, which look terrible… overall, however, it’s a very nice city. You will find it much cleaner than you are probably used to; for whatever reason, Canadian cities tend to be cleaner than American cities, and Toronto is very clean indeed. Toronto has a lot of parks and green areas within the city.

  2. Toronto is a city of about 2.4 million people within the city limits, about 4.5 million in the metropolitan area. The urban sprawl is roughly equivalent in size to Boston, Houston, or Atlanta; it would be smaller than Philadelphia, but larger than Cleveland. Toronto used to be six separate cities, so if you hear people talking about “Scarborough, East York, York, North York or Etobicoke” (Euh-TOE-bih-coh) they’re referring to Toronto. Those were the other five cities merged into the new city. However, the urban area extends unbroken well beyond its borders; Mississauga, lying on the western border of Toronto, is officially a separate city of 600,000 but it’s the same city in any practical sense.

  3. Toronto is unquestionably the SAFEST metropolis in North America, even safer than most other big Canadian cities. I live in a working class neighborhood and don’t have the slightest concern about going out at night. Homicide and violent crime rates here are low even as compared to the Canadian average, and are lower than Vancouver, Montreal, Winnipeg, etc, and a fraction of what you will find in a large American city; for comparison’s sake, the City of Los Angeles has about eight times as many murders per capita.

The difference between rich and poor is most definitely not as great here as you will find it in California. However, it’s not a paradise; we have homeless guys and squeegee kids too.

  1. For a big city, it actually isn’t that expensive. I was quite surprised when I moved here at how reasonable it is. You will find almost anywhere to be much cheaper than L.A.

A three-bedroom house in Toronto will typically range around $200,000-600,000 CDN, or about $125,000-$380,000 in US dollars. Prices drop dramatically in the next-door cities like Mississauga, Oakville, Brampton, and Pickering. If you’re looking to rent, a three-bedroom apartment in Toronto would run you around $1250-$2100 per month in Canadian swag, depending on location and quality, or about $800-$1300 USD. Overall, consumer prices in Toronto are much lower than in California.

Toronto’s economy is presently fairly strong, as the Canadian economy is running a little better than the US economy right now. Unemployment in Toronto is about 6.5%.

  1. TAXES! Despite what you may have heard, taxes here aren’t that bad. Consumer items have a hefty amount of sales tax; 7% federal, 8% provincial (with some exceptions - there is no tax on groceries, for instance.) Despite that, Ontario taxes are comparable to California’s. In Canada, taxes vary enormously from province to province, just like in the States.

I make about $64,000 per year and all my income taxes and government deductions add up to about $20,000. You may find some government fees cheaper - registering a car here is easier, for instance.

In case you’re planning to spend your life here, your daughter will someday be pleased to hear than in Canada, there is no inheritance tax. :slight_smile:

  1. THE MEDICAL SYSTEM - As I am sure you know, Canada has a government-run health insurance system free for all permanent residents. It doesn’t work perfectly, but generally speaking it’s quite effective. I have never had any problems with it. Incidentally, it does NOT cover dental care or drugs - you need your own, or an employer’s, insurance for that, or you pay cash. Only necessary medical care is covered by Medicare. Despite what you may have heard, you do get to shop around for a family doctor; the government doesn’t assign you a doctor. Toronto, as you would expect, has many large hospitals.

  2. SCHOOLS - The school system in Ontario is not fundamentally different from what you are used to; kindergarten, then 12 years of school, then you can go to college or university. School is entirely paid for by government up until college or university. Post-secondary education tuition fees run about $2000-5000 per year plus expenses (CDN)

Ontario, just to confuse you, has two completely separate public school systems; the Public system, which is like yours, and the “Separate” system, which is a Roman Catholic system. The difference, basically, is that the separate system has 30 minutes of fairly mild Catholic instruction every day and every now and then they have a Mass. Other than that there frankly isn’t much of a difference anymore, though there used to be. Students don’t even have to be Catholic to go to a Catholic school. This dual system, believe it or not, is Constitutionally required.

Despite Sunspace’s comments, Ontario school finding has not changed THAT much, and Ontario’s “conservative” government is noticeably left of the Republican Party. Schools here are perfectly good places to send your kid. There are a lot of post-secondary schools in and around the city.


Toronto’s mass transit system is reasonably good, although it is markedly inferior in the satellite cities, and is definitely not as good as Montreal’s. Subways are safe and reasonably reliable and the bus and streetcar system is extensive and efficient. Major commuter route along the lakeshore are served by the GO Transit system, which is provincially operated. IF you want to commute to work, you can do it in a reasonable timeframe.

Toronto’s driving is no worse than any other city its size - actually, it’s improved quite a bit lately, as the government put some dough into fixing the highways over the last six or seven years. A commute from 40 km outside the city would typically run you 45-60 minutes. Toronto is served by a lot of freeways. There is no beltway here (since everything south of the city is water) but the freeway grid is not hard to learn.

Toronto has a very large airport, Lester Pearson International, within city limits, with connections to most anywhere.

Driving times to major cities:

Niagara Falls (and the U.S. border) - 75 minutes
Detroit, MI - 3 hours
Cleveland, OH - 4 hours
Ottawa, ON - 5 hours
Montreal, QC - 5.5 hours
New York, NY - 8 hours


Toronto is cold in the winter. From December to early March, the temperature averages just below freezing, and it will drop to well below 0 F on occasion. Toronto gets a fair amount of snow (though, curiously, it actually gets less snow than, say, New York or Boston. The lake moderates the weather a lot.) If you are unfamiliar with winter driving you will need to be extremely careful your first few times out; it is a learned skill. You will need to equip yourself with all-weather tires and suitable winter clothing; if you buy a house don’t forget to buy a snowblower or a few good shovels for the driveway.

Summers in Toronto are hot and very humid, averaging around 80-90 degrees but getting hotter at times and with high humidity. Toronto’s air pollution isn’t too bad, but like any big city a particularly hot and humid day can be oppressively muggy and yucky. Spring is not overly wet; autumns are generally mild and pleasant, with really cold weather arriving around mid-November.

  1. DIVERSITY - Toronto is a very diverse city, with half its population being comprised of immigrants. Toronto has very large communities of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, European, and Carribean immigrants. This causes fewer problems than you would expect. Various cultures get along pretty well in general. As with most multicultural cities, the restaurants here are terrific.

  2. LANGUAGE - The language of schooling and commerce in Toronto is English. French is virtually unused outside of federal government services, but its instruction is mandatory in school. Many other languages are spoken by immigrants here.

  3. CANADIANNESS - The propensity of Canadians to be polite and reserved is, frankly, 60% a national myth. Canadians are a little less confrontational and the culture of violence isn’t here, but I think you will find that by and large most people are not THAT different here in most respects. There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that Canadians work a little less hard than Californians, but I don’t think the difference is that great.

  4. CITIZENSHIP - You’ll have to figure out how to immigrate here. Once you do, you can apply for citizenship after three years; it involves a civics test. This will permit you to vote.

Americans moving to Canada can gain Canadian citizenship without giving up American citizenship. The USA does not recognize any privileges of dual citizenship but does not strip it from Americans becoming citizens of Canada.


  1. TECHNOLOGY - Canada is every bit as advanced a technological state as the USA. You’ll miss nothing. Sunspace is right; for what reason I can’t quite understand, banking is much easier here; I don’t get it, either, but it’s true.

  2. COMSUMER PRICES AND PRODUCTS - You will find most consumer products cheaper here. Brand names are mostly the same, except in the case of groceries, where about 50% of the brands are different.

  3. POLITICS - I won’t get into an exhaustive discussion of politics; Canada is a relatively centrist country and you’ll find nothing all that shocking.


Toronto is a cosmopolitan, diverse, and cultured city; there’s more to do here than I could name in an E-mail. Theatre, cinema, sports, museums, entertainment, comedy, musicals, amusement parks, zoos, tourist traps, professional sports, festivals, you name it. Outdoorsy types have endless amounts of cottage country within 0.5-2 hours’ drive.

I lived there. I liked it. The Universtity of Toronto alone is reason enought to move there. World class theatre. Terrific symphony. Lovely parks. A wide variety of cultures. A very liveable world class city.

Just a few comments…

Unless you’re living far from downtown, I’d say this is overly optimistic. When I first moved to Toronto in 2000, I shared a decent but by no means luxurious one-bedroom apartment with two roommates. The rent was over $1800. When I moved out after a year, I found it very difficult to get a better deal anywhere else.

Again, overly optimistic. Graduate tuition at the U of T, which for most programs is still regulated by the government, is currently just shy of $6000 per year. Many undergraduate programs and some graduate and professional programs are no longer regulated. Last I heard, law tuition was to be around $22,000 per year.

As a frequest user of GO Transit and the TTC, I’ll second this. I sold my car shortly after moving to Toronto. I found it a liability given the high parking fees and excellent transit service. If you live and work downtown, a bicycle is twice as fast as a car, or three times faster than the streetcar.

Toronto is positively balmy compared to most non-coastal cities as far (or farther) north. I’m from Regina, and sent my winter coats back home after my first winter in Toronto. Still, I suppose it’s cold compared to LA.

Don’t know if it’s relevant to your situation, but one big difference from the U.S., as Queen Bee hinted at, is that gun ownership is much more heavily regulated. If you’re coming up on a job scouting trip, leave any gun behind - you won’t be allowed to bring it across the border without a lot of paperwork. If you end up living here, you’d need a possession licence for long-arms, an additional permit for a handgun, and all guns must be registered. Concealed carry is not allowed, and you can only possess a handgun at your home, at the firing range, and in transit between the two.

As for Toronto, well, let’s just say it’s the nicest city I’ve ever been in transit through on a regular basis. (I’m a small town boy.)

Another thing: Canada is mostly, but not all, metric. Distances are in kilometres, gas and milk is sold in litres, temperature is in Celsius.

Unlike in Australia, the metric conversion is not complete. People still speak of horsepower in cars, and of real-estate in square feet and/or acres. Products are labeled in metric, but many groceries are often advertised according to Imperial weight, even though the actual scales are in metric. Note: the Imperial system of units is not the same as the US Customary System of Units. The gallon and most of its subunits are larger in Canada; this causes confusion when discussing “miles-per-gallon” with US folks.

All my books in high school were in metric, and when I was in architecture school, though, we dimensioned our plans in millimetres.

I personally think we should finish the transition. Here’s an advocacy site for metric completion.

Maybe it’s just that all cities tend to become ugly in winter, but I definitely think we can do better on the streetscape front. I’m thinking of Dundas Street between the 427 and Kipling, for example: a bleak succession of strip malls and parking lots along a seven-lane road. The new city plan seems to acknowledge this though. And Toronto definitely isn’t as tidy as it used to be.

More good things about Toronto:

The Judith Merrill Collection: a research-level collection of science fiction and fantasy, tended lovingly by professional librarians. It’s part of the public library system and anyone can use it. I was introduced to it as a kid, back when it was still called The Spaced-Out Library.

Radio and television. Lots of channels, lots of choices, especially if you get digital cable. (Three channels in Tamil, anyone?)

The Beguiling. A very very good comic-book store.

Some comments on RickJay’s excellent post…

Granted, RickJay. The Harris Conservatives were never “socially” conservative, in the US “Moral Majority” sense. I have heard a few horror stories about schools in Toronto though, from teacher acqaintances. And there was the whole Toronto District [public] School Board budget battle late last year, when the school board refused to okay a budget that involved cuts according to a formula that the government admitted was broken, but wanted to apply anyway…

Ah yes, The Airport That Is Always Under Construction. As part of a fifteen-year rebuilding programme that started in the mid-nineties, a vast new terminal is being constructed among the old ones (which will eventually be demolished, starting with the forty-year-old Terminal One). Eventual capacity is something like fifty million passenger transits a year, but that’s three or four phases down the road. In the meantime, it’s eternal construction amidst a maze of access roads. If you’ve never been through it before, it’s much less stressful to get picked up at the terminal rather than drive a rental car straight away from it. Even a shuttle to an offsite rental place helps.

There’s an “Airport Express” bus to downtown hotels, but it is quite expensive, around 12 or 15 dollars. If you just need to get to the subway, you can take TTC bus #192, the “Airport Rocket”, for $2.25, which will take you to the westernmost subway station at Kipling. From there you can go anywhere in the city for no additional cost; it just takes longer. A cab from the airport downtown costs something like 30 or 40 dollars.

Incidentally, I believe the airport is actually outside the City of Toronto proper, and is within Mississauga city limits.

I seem to remeber seeing payphones with both 416 and 905 area codes in it, side by side, which was a special setup by Bell, to make things less confusing for travellers.

416 is the original area code for Toronto, and 905 is the area code for all the suburban cities that surround Toronto. Describing something as 905-versus-416 has become a shorthand in the news for differences between city and suburban policies and attitudes. (Both area codes have since been overlaid; you now see areacode-647 numbers in Toronto, and areacode-289 numbers in the 'burbs.)

IMHO the two biggest differences between US and Canadian politics are the French/English dichotomy, and the lack of public religiousness in Canadian political circles. But that discussion might make another interesting thread.


Federal politics in Canada is very fragmented. If you’re used to a two-party system where the parties gradually evolve over time, you may be somewhat confused.

There is the Liberal Party, which holds a majority in Parliament, and whose leader, Jean Chretien, is therefore Prime Minister. Other parties with elected members include the Progressive Conservatives, the Canadian Alliance, the New Democratic Party (NDP), and the Bloc Quebecois (BQ).

The Liberals are kind of a catch-all party right now. Chretien as stated that he will resign, and other possible candidates are manoeuvring to gain advantage at the party leadership convention.

The Progressive Conservatives are fiscal conservatives, big-business support types. They were the former ruling party, but they spectacularly imploded a couple of elections ago, going from a majority in Parliament to just two seats.

The Canadian Alliance (formerly the Reform Party) is the social conservative party, rather like religious Republicans. They’re popular out west, but they never made the hoped-for break into Ontario in the last election.

The New Democratic Party is a democratic socialist party, with a long tradition of grassroots control. As the country in general has moved rightwards in the past two decades, they’ve lost their way and lost seats in Parliament, and are now furiously debating their future course.

The Bloc Quebecois is theoretically devoted to supporting separatist tendencies in Quebec. I believe they also tend to be somewhat “democratic-socialist” in actual policy, but I’ll let the likes of matt_mcl correct me on that.

Parties without elected members in federal Parliament include the Marijuana Party, which has been getting some airtime lately with the country’s halting steps toward marijuana decriminalization, and the Green Party, which has been rising in popularity and is almost breaking through to ‘serious party’ status.

There are very small contingents of actual Communists, but beyond being among the fringe election candidates in the cities, they don’t have much of an effect.

Provincial politics is different. There may be a party with the same name as a federal party, but its policies may be very different. a recent example: the federal Conservatives and the provincial Conservatives in Ontario.

Municipal politics doesn’t tend to be on a party system.

Psychonaut, geez. It’s one thing to nitpick, but…

The rental numbers I used were culled as an average for rental units throughout the city of Toronto, and I did draw them from online listings. I live about halfway from downtown to the city limits and pay $1500 a month, including parking for two cars, which might be a few bucks below the average.

If you live RIGHT DOWNTOWN, you’ll pay more. If you live in the northern end in the crummy neighborhoods in Rexdale, it’ll be far less - hell, you can get 3-bedrooms for $900 if you aren’t picky and enjoy roasting in August. I think most people know you get a range of rents. $1500-$2000 is a good midpoint average.

I can find 25 vacant 3-bedroom apartments in under fifteen minutes in Toronto just on the web that go for LESS than $1750 (and I live in one, and it’s a nice place.) You either got seriously ripped off or had a VERY nice place right downtown.

Sigh. You might have guessed I was aiming at UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAMS. In both university and college. Yes, grad programs cost more; there’s no point in trying to estimate that, since as you point out you can be talking anything from $5K to $25K. Is it necessary to go harping when we’re giving the guy general advice? Assuming he wants to put his child through university his primary concern will be undergrad tuition, where the average is definitely around $3500 to $5000 for a university, $2000 for a college program. (Of course, we can assume this will be higher when his baby grows up.)

The gentleman asking for advice is from Los Angeles, CA. Toronto is very, very cold by comparison, and most importantly, presents winter weather issues that do not exist in L.A., issues that don’t matter in terms of the marginal difference between Toronto and Regina - for instance, the need for all-weather tires, winter clothing, etc. He’ll pay heating bills he would not pay in L.A., which is a significant expense. The relative temperature of Regina’s not relevant here. I actually thought of including the sentence “Toronto is generally warmer than any other place in Canada save the lower Pacific coast and southwestern Ontario” but I figured it was irrelevant.

In Toronto it was -18 C yesterday, at least -30 with wind chill. I do not believe anyone would stay outside without proper winter clothes in such weather. You’re welcome to talk a walk with me when it’s eighteen below without a warm coat on, but I’ll be bundled up.


Strictly speaking, of course, airports are federal land. However, Pearson Airport lies mostly within the borders of Etobicoke, and its offices recieve mail to a Toronto address (3111 Convair Drive) and have 416 phone numbers. It’s smack on the border tho. It’s not too bad to drive to if the 427 isn’t busy.

And if you think shuttles are pricey, try taking a CAB. Holy moly. There’s one thing in Toronto that’s expensive; cab rides. I’ve never been in a city with pricier cabs. Not even London.

Rental prices have recently dropped in TO due to a higher vacancy rate as people buy new homes. The numbers quoted by RickJay seem reasonable, but I might say $1300-$2500.

Wow, I want to thank everyone for the helpful and informative posts. I will try to respond to all of them individually but composing that message, especially to RickJay, SunSpace and psychonaut will take sometime.

From the sounds of it, the culture shock won’t be that bad. Taxes are high in California, and I know too well the difficulties that come from cutbacks in government services.
ResIpsaLoquitor Without meaning to downplay that intensity of the Canadian freeway system, how bad is it, really? Do people e.g. periodically shoot at you? I’ve negotiated the 10/60/5/110 interchange a few times, so I ought to be able to deal with it.

** Weary** I’ve already started adding gratuitous ‘U’s to all of my words, and I apologise a lot. I should fit in.

** mnemosyne** I will find and acquire that book immediately. It sounds enormously helpful.

** Sunspace**, Thank you for the extremely informative post. I think you managed to sell me on the city with the comment about it being dirty and drab; I’ll feel right at home.

queen_bee sorry, but I’m a city kid these days. I’ve been to Vancouver, and can’t deny that it is beautiful, but Toronto gets the nod. Firearms are just about against the law here, so that won’t be too big a shock. Oh, and welcome to the boards.

Northen Piper, I plan on bringing along two Great Danes for household protection, so the firearm thing won’t be an issue.

Dr_Paprika How sprawling is Toronto? If we do wish to purchase a house, how far from the city center does one have to go before single family detached residences (i.e., houses) with yards become available? I’ve also heard that it is probably easiest to rent a condo, as condo stocks grew but housing stock didn’t; does anybody know about that?

I’ll get good maps of Toronto today or tomorrow, so I’ll be able to ask slightly more intelligent questions about areas.

I’ll respond to the longer posts later today. Thanks again everyone. This makes the decision a lot easier. I owe all of you beers at the next Toronto dopefest.

Yes, because if you had read my post, I was actually trying to make the point that because the government no longer controls the tuition fees, undergraduate programs can and do cost more than graduate programs. If you check the schedule of tuition fees posted on the U of T’s website, you’ll see that all but four of the diploma and undergraduate degree programs have tuition well in excess of the $5000 maximum you claim. Furthermore it bears mentioning that tuition fees are doubled for non-permanent residents. Not an issue for the OP’s child, but certainly for the OP himself, should he wish to continue his studies abroad.

I go to school at the University of Guelph, and although it’s getting close, yearly tuition (well, 2 semesters - fall and winter) has not passed the 5000$ mark yet. McMaster, however, in Hamilton, is currently about 5400$ for equivalent programs. AFAIK, Waterloo and Western are in similar price ranges. I would say up to 6000$/year is a better estimate, but probably not too much more than that, unless the program is a specialized one (I know McMaster Engineering is 5600, to give you an idea…).

The Crazy Highway Intersection is located in Burlington (between Mississauga and Hamilton), and so if you live in the city itself I don’t think you’d really need to deal with it much. The thing is, you need to pay attention to the signs. IMO, Ontario is TERRIBLE at not posting adequate signs for exits/highway splits/merges, and so it is quite easy to end up somewhere you don’t plan to be. Part of the 403 goes through Hamilton, and as you get to Burlington, the LEFT lane (i.e. the “fast one”) splits off onto the 407, which is a Toll Route which is, IMHO, not worth the money (the one time I took it, traffic was worse than on the 401). A few kilometers later, the 403 merges and becomes the QEW, but it does so in such an amazing mess of on and off ramps that most people have, at least once, ended up in front of the Burlington IKEA wondering WTF just happened. I think its a cospiracy by the Scandinavians to get us to buy more curvy kitchen tables.

Traffic can be a real nightmare, which happens everywhere, I suppose. The 401 is perpetually under construction, so what should be 3-4 lanes each way is often only 2, and although the Collectors help to relieve the load (they are 3-lane highways parallelling the “Express” 401), they add their own mess to the whole thing because you have cars desperately trying to cross several lanes of highway traffic to get the Express exit onto Collectors and then, 1km later, the actual exit onto the street they want. It becomes really messy, really fast, and accidents (of course) do happen.

Naturally, this leads to rubber-necking. Ontarians spend a lot of time slowing down and staring at accidents/tow trucks/people changing car tires/debris/traffic cones/grass, etc. I was once stuck in a 10km-long traffic jam for over an hour and a half in the eastbound 401 lanes because there was an accident westbound. Truly insane. (Note: I am not Ontarian, so I feel I can express my dislike for their inability to drive! Quebeckers, however…we know what we’re doing! :D).

One other thing which you might have to get used to, is the lack of alcoholic beverages (beer/wine/liquor) in grocery and/or convenience stores. I don’t know how this is in LA, but alcohol in Ontario is pretty strictly regulated, with beer only available in government run stores (conveniently called “The Beer Store”), or in LCBO’s (“Liquor Control Board of Ontaro”) stores. Wine and hard stuff can only be bought in LCBOs too (and certain Wine Shops, but for the most part, the LCBO is where wine is sold). After 2.5 years here, I still get annoyed that I can’t fill up my gas tank and buy a 24 at the same time!

Oh, and watch out for Tim Horton’s. That guy will kill you!

Toronto is big and moderately sprawling. There are houses with yards, however, on many downtown streets. It would certainly be possible to get a house with yard within a ten minute drive from anywhere “downtown” you wanted to be. It can easily take an hour to reach downtown from far-flung corners of the city.

People like to live on the water. Hence, Toronto sprawls more in an east-west direction (parallel to Lake Ontario) than in a north-south direction. The condo market in Toronto has done very well, but certainly there is much to be said for home ownership too. Housing prices are just beginning to plateau after a steady rise. Many have recently bought houses due to low interest rates. The apartment vacancy rate is now higher than it has been for many years.

Tim Horton’s? A saviour, not a killer. :slight_smile:

In a lot of smaller places, Tim Horton’s is the social centre of the community. Mostly because it’s on the highway, it isn’t kid-hostile, it’s open 24h/day, and it’s a non-smoking environment. Better than Krispy Kreme any day. But that’s another Great Debate.

(Yes, there is exacly one Krispy Kreme in Canada. It’s located just south of the intersection of Mavis and Britannia in Mississauga, and it has lineups all the time in the drive-thru. Sometimes the cops have to direct traffic…)

Sprawl and houses: you can buy houses fairly close to the downtown core, but they’ll be expensive. And about ten centimetres away from the neighbours. There are many more houses available in the regions, which may be convenient if you find a job in, say, Meadowvale. (If you do find a job in Meadowvale, we can do lunch together–that’s where I work. :slight_smile: )

Right now there is a condo building boom; people are buying, and as a result the rental market has eased (there are several apartments available in my neighbourhood for instance), so if you have to rent for a time, it won’t be as bad as it was a few years ago…

Oh, and bashere? If you show up in Toronto next Wednesday you’ll get to experience the joys of a high of -19C. :slight_smile:

psychonaut mentions Regina. My mother was born near Regina, and she told me many stories of the Prairie climate. Winter temperatures of -40 for weeks on end aren’t that unusual.

Toronto is in a relatively mild climate, compared to other places of the same latitude and distance from the ocean. It faces south, so to speak, and its climate is moderated by Lake Ontario. A lot of winter precipitation seems to miss it; I’ve often wondered whether this was a factor in its growth.

There is a significant change in climate about thirty kilometers north of the lake, roughly north of the east-west Highway 7. The land is higher and colder, and gets more snow. Areas north of Highway 7 will very often get freezing rain or snow when Toronto itself just gets drizzle. This can be a significant factor if you plan to buy a house there and drive to work. Many times this winter various co-workers who live to the north have worked from home, when I’ve had no problems getting to work from the city.

As a more extreme example of this, the town of Bancroft is located about an hour and a half north of the lake, in the Madawaska Highlands. In the winter it routinely runs 5 or 10 degrees colder than Toronto. My friends there told me that last night they had a low of -30, where Toronto had a low of -15. This unmoderated inland climate is the climate of Ottawa or Montreal, not Toronto.

This might be a good time to mention that Toronto hit a high of over 40 C both last summer and the one before…