This is part two of "Relocating to Canada", an excellent guest article written by blog reader and contributor J. Vanne. J. again thanks a lot. The article is very well written and full of information for anyone considering Canada!
Relocating to Canada, Part II: The Regions
The goal of examining different Canadian regions for you is two-fold: a.) to look at regions that might be a good locale in a slow, grinding economic downturn, and b.) examine areas the might be suitable for a more serious societal and/or economic breakdown (the so-called “zombie apocalypse”). In other words, the scope of this article is to try to find areas that will be acceptable if the powers that be are able to somewhat “kick the economic can down the road” for a few more years, while at the same time providing information for your consideration in the event of a much more serious apocalypse of various flavors. This means the article will attempt to find a sweet spot on the one hand between having a location with business, cultural and educational opportunities, a reasonably sized air hub so one can conduct business and family affairs, large enough to have acceptable medical services, and other sufficient infrastructure, but on the other side of the equation, in a more serious collapse situation, have the possibility of relative self-sufficiency, some degree of protection against burgeoning crime, be able to avoid intrusive, Orwellian big government, as well as avoid the other downsides of a large population centre.
And to review the refrain about winter in the last article, yes, it isn’t as warm as New Orleans is in the winter in Canada. But do consider this: excluding interfamilial crime (spouse on spouse, etc., or other situations where the perpetrator knows the victim), winter is the great crime reducer for the type of law--breaking the reader is probably much more concerned with. People simply don’t commit as many violent acts outdoors in the winter as they do in the summer. One further point about winter. As most preparedness types are – or should be - involved in fitness activities, cross-country skiing is literally one of the best all-around exercises you can do, bar none. If you are in a place where there is snow, cross-country skiing is cheap, can be done anywhere. The Swedes have a saying “if you can walk, you can cross-country ski,” and it is true. Cross-country skiing is nothing at all similar downhill skiing (my wife refuses to downhill ski, but absolutely loves cross-country, and she is not unique at all in that regards). And of course there is always snowshoeing or skating. The point here is this: don’t dismiss Canada out of hand due to its reputation for cold, if all the other pieces fit for you. Yes, most of the land mass of Canada is extremely frigid. However, most of the land mass of Canada that is frigid is uninhabited. There are indeed areas that get very cold – but this article will advise you of that, as well as more areas that are more temperate. You will be surprised to note, for example, that one area of Vancouver Island I am recommending is in in the same plant growing zone as Atlanta, GA, or that Windsor, Ontario is the same latitude as northern California.
As with all other articles I write, the information contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is merely my opinion. You would, of course, necessarily need to do your own due diligence in determining if a spot is right for you.
If you are considering relocating to Canada, be aware that many believe (and I agree) that there is a major housing bubble in many regions, particularly in urban areas such as Toronto and Vancouver, as of this writing (Dec., 2012). As in my previous article, I refer you to www.thepoog.com to keep abreast of Canadian politics and the economy. Poog has several posts on Canadian housing prices you can search the site for; as well, this URL also includes a large dollop of American economic news factored into many articles, as Canada, for better or worse, is joined to a large degree with the United States economically. You can also simply google “Canadian housing bubble” and start from there, as the news on this issue may well change by the time you get around to acting on the information in this article.
As noted previously, www.canadafreepress.com will also provide you excellent news from a conservative vantage point, regarding the economy and social issues. Finally, if you are looking for rural land, I have personally had very good experience with purchasing my own property with www.dignam.com, which has been in business for almost 100 years. Of course please do your own due diligence, and be aware that valuation of rural properties is more difficult. I have no association with Dignam at all, other than having purchased from them, and having had a good, professional experience with their staff. As of this writing, purchasing land from them was very simple – just writing a cheque. No doubt Obama’s Orwellian state will not keep it that way forever. Meanwhile, purchasing Canadian land allows one to put one’s assets outside of the country (how are they going to “repatriate” a chunk of land? I suppose they could find some way to encumber your ownership, but this is high hanging fruit that might be forgotten in the scramble for easier financial “pickings”). By purchasing land, you might also help protect your assets from a lawsuit happy citizenry if you are in the U.S. (for some of whom the general attitude is part and parcel of the free lunch syndrome… “Hey! If I can’t win the lottery, I’ll sue someone!”) I personally know of an individual who made his/her way through a good portion adulthood by suing McDonalds as an employee for a very minor injury that, to be honest, I would have put a band-aide on for a few days and forgotten).
With the above in mind, let’s examine the each major region, starting in the west, and excluding Quebec and the Far North. I will then conclude in a forthcoming article general considerations nationwide, including gun laws. While I provide a small-scale map below, have open Mapquest.com, or some other map tool (even your trusty old Rand McNally, if you have one), to find the towns I am speaking about in more detail
The Western Provinces: British Columbia.
Where is the rest of British Columbia – the part cut off at the north?
You aren’t going to live there, and neither does anyone else. Yes, you could live there. It’s not illegal… or fattening. It is just that the focus of this article is to examine locations where one might reasonably want to reside, outside of the possibility needing to relocate as 95% of the planet is in the process of succumbing to Ebola virus or an attack of the killer tomatoes. I am examining areas for a range of outcomes from moderate to severe – but am stopping short of asteroid impact the size Texas, the Mayan calendar ripping the world in two, or – worse – Nancy Pelosi being elected president to succeed Obama. On the other hand, I am including the possibility of an extremely serious economic implosion in my relocation calculus. The far north of British Columbia - as with the rest of Canada - would be difficult to live in long term unless you have millions to invest. It also gets really cold – and I mean cold from the perspective of a Canadian. Short term, you would have transportation, communication and other problems. Long term, you would find out why the Inuit (they are not called Eskimo!) were always more or less on the edge of population extinction. My suggestion is that if you want to get that far away, the Kerguelen Islands, or perhaps Ascension Island, might be a better option.
Let’s start with the well-known. Vancouver, B.C, may be the most expensive housing market in North America. I lived there for years, and I would agree with many who believe it is the most beautiful city in the world – one where you could literally sail in the morning, play tennis in the afternoon outdoors, then go skiing at Grouse Mountain that evening – all within a 25 minute drive starting from the city centre. How’s that for a “lifestyle of the rich and famous?!”
The only problem is, if you were rich and famous, you would fly your Learjet there to check these facts out yourself, and wouldn’t need to read this article! There’s one more problem. While it is literally possible to do these things, unless you are independently wealthy, you won’t have the time or money to do any of this. And worst of all, you will never be able to afford a home. The evidence? Check out http://www.crackshackormansion.com/. This site asks you to guess whether the shack pictured is a crackhouse somewhere in North America, or a million dollar plus home in Vancouver. You will have difficulty telling, I can assure you. Culturally, the population includes a lot of Hong Kong citizens who came over when it reverted to Chinese rule back a couple decades ago (like San Francisco, there is also an historic Chinese population who came over to work on the railroads over 100 years ago, a slightly different group of people, Cantonese speaking mostly). Some of the recent Hong Kong immigrants actually went back, saying B.C. was too socialist for their liking (seriously). This should give you, dear reader, further pause about the Vancouver area – also known as Lotus Land, due to its large amount of live-for-today dreamers and layabouts. There is also a large East Indian population in British Columbia (as well as much of the rest of Canada), along with other areas that were historically Greek, Italian, etc.
But here is the real issue with Vancouver: For all but the wealthy, it is crowded, very politically correct, riven by on-going union dissent, has increasing crime, and is horrible to commute in (there are several choke-point bridges and tunnels that one simply cannot get around, unless you live in the extremely expensive city core). Essentially, Vancouver is land-locked by mountains immediately abutting the city to the north as well as past the Fraser Valley to the east; the ocean on the west blocks any expansion there, of course, and the US border before one drives an hour or so south blocks development there. Worse, as it generally does not snow in Vancouver, it is full of the “California complex” folks who come for the warm temperatures and easy living. What this in fact leads to is a city that is sleazy, full of get-rich-quick types, a higher than average proportion of drug users, and worse. The city is full of the “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” types, who - as is always the case – don’t die the next day, and wake up with an enlarged liver, a beer belly, a massive financial bill you, dear reader, will end up footing. Some of the underlying socio-economic tectonic faults were revealed by the Stanley Cup riots a couple years ago. If this type of situation is OK for you, there are better options – say, California. Meanwhile the Vancouver population is often polarized between the haves and have-nots, making local politics unpleasant, and there is a very California-esque bent towards socialism, of the free lunch masses and for the free lunch masses. I strongly suggest for the conservative person relocating that this area be stricken off your list. This includes the Fraser Valley, immediately east of Vancouver, which is otherwise one of the more fertile regions in the world. This area is better, but “no cigar.” Again, prices are high, population is skyrocketing, and it is not an ideal location for many of the same reasons Vancouver is not, though better than the city.
And speaking of “tectonic fault lines,” you need to take into account the whole lower mainland of British Columbia is seismically active, with many saying it is due for “the big one.” Some scientists believe that certain low-lying areas (e.g., Surrey, BC. – a suburb) could simply be liquefied in a major quake.
However, there are other regions to consider. B.C. like much of the western U.S., was originally much more conservative that today, and some regions still are. You will still be impacted by the socialist masses who have voting clout on a provincial level, but just as California has a very conservative north California, there are regions that are worth examining.
The east side of Vancouver Island is where we will start (most of the west coast of “the island” is very remote, and generally hard to reach. There is only a single paved road to the west coast, leading to the small towns of Ucluelet and Tofino). I will dismiss Victoria, for the same reasons I dismiss Vancouver, though the problems are not as pronounced. However, once one goes north of the city, over the Malahat Pass, there are a number of small towns worth consideration. Some of these will have large ethnic populations, so that may be a concern for some. The city I will target for your consideration is Nanaimo (another of my former residences) population 84,000, or the small towns one hour north, up to Courtenay and Comox. Here are the advantages: The population of Nanaimo is not large at 84,000 yet large enough to provide all the necessary amenities such as healthcare, shopping cultural attractions, etc., as well a population base to allow for the running of a business. It is just as warm as Vancouver – in fact, as you leave the Departure Bay ferry going into the city, there is an outdoor palm tree that has been planted welcoming visitors. The city is spectacularly beautiful, just like Vancouver, but at a fraction of the price. The east coast of Vancouver Island is also very fertile, and has, like the rest of the Northwest, ample rain. (Be aware the constant rain before considering a move to this area! Some people do not tolerate this type of weather well!) In any type of zombie apocalypse – or just more of the standard Obama-inspired slow socialist trudge towards an Argentinian-type economic and societal disintegration - the hordes from Vancouver will be limited from Vancouver Island by only having ferry access, which is a 1:45 minute ride away (ferry schedule here: http://www.bcferries.com/schedules/mainland/hbna-current.php?scheduleSelect=sch090313014.html ) – if the ferries run at all. You can conduct further research at the Nanaimo city website, http://www.nanaimo.ca/. Several other recommended towns a bit further north are Qualicum Beach (official website at http://www.qualicumbeach.com/cms.asp?wpID=1 ) or Courtenay (http://www.courtenay.ca/ )
For those wanting more isolation, many of the Gulf Islands immediately off the eastern shore of Vancouver Island might be even more desirable – though at a cost, as these properties are not cheap, particularly if one is on the water. There are a string of Gulf Islands starting off Victoria, and as one trends northwards, the islands become less and less populated. Gabriola Island, a 20 minute ferry ride (and another former residence of mine) is a good example. Temperate weather, restricted access even from Nanaimo by another ferry, and a relaxed living style might be attractive to many. Where I lived on Gabriola Island, a 20 minute walk on the beach would provide oysters, clams, and the like for my hibachi, and nature is everywhere in abundance – including golden eagles and orcas (killer whales) that would occasionally pass by my house. The Gabriola Island/Nanaimo/Courtenay/Qualicum Beach general region provides a good mix of sustainability, fertile lands, temperate weather, access to the amenities of a reasonably sized city (Nanaimo), a location which is large enough to allow one to run a business, and have high bandwidth internet connections for remote access jobs. One also has access to a major population centre – Vancouver – by ferry, or by float plane, when one wishes, while at the same time not needing to pay the price – emotional, stress-wise, or in real estate prices – of living in Vancouver. Victoria, the provincial capital, is 100 kilometres (about 60 miles) via superhighway to the south. For those of us needing to keep a foot in both worlds - one in the preparedness (for an economic and/or societal downdraft) world, and one in the workaday world of keeping cash flow coming in if or until some type of breakdown occurs – this region may be a good compromise. Of course, Vancouver has a major international airport, and Victoria, as the capital of BC, with a population of 330,000, also has a decent sized airport. Seattle is about a 3 hour drive to the south.
Remember that island living – unless you have a boat – revolves around the ferry schedule (and even if you have your own boat, if you have car you are still out of luck! This can be very much a practical, on-going annoyance. Don’t discount the impact it might have on your lifestyle. And, as noted, Vancouver Island is seismically active. Earthquake preparedness is the sine quo non of living there.
If you are considering moving further out, as on progresses north up Vancouver Island, it becomes less and less inhabited – along with the Gulf Islands off the coast - with Campbell River being the last major population centre. Campbell River would be the farthest north I would recommend living on Vancouver Island, given the assumptions noted above. As with anywhere on Vancouver Island or Vancouver, while there are moderate temperatures, one had better truly enjoy the rain. North of Campbell River, there are towns there, but one begins to pay the full price of being truly remote, and all that entails. And if you wish to be truly remote – with the Kerguelens being out of reach - there are always the Queen Charlotte Islands. If you look at the map above, you will notice two big islands off the west coast of B.C. Interestingly, the Haida Indians who inhabit these islands are the only tribe that never signed any type of peace treaty with the white man. Perhaps in some worse case Orwellian apocalypse, this could be a decent place to live. I speak with my tongue only half in cheek here, having watched some of the latest governmental shenanigans after the Obama election (truly, folks, if you voted for Obama, don’t read this article. Stay and live in the mess you, yourselves, created).
Next, let’s move east, to the interior of B.C. There are really only three natural corridors out of Vancouver to the east, one of which is through the U.S. The other two are over the hairpin turn-filled Manning Park route, the other through the sheer walled cliffs of the Fraser River Canyon (one of the staggering feats of engineering of the late 1800s was the building the Canadian Pacific Railway through this gorge – and even today it seems an incredible feat. See Pierre Burton’s “The Last Spike: The Great Railway for a riveting read of how this was done). And since the 1980s, thanks to a feat of modern engineering, there is now a superhighway into the interior of BC, the Coquihalla highway.
If you decide to examine the interior of BC, one major point of consideration is that mountain weather is very local. What is true meteorologically for one town on one side of a mountain might well not be true as you move east. In general, as you progress through the mountain ranges from west to east, it becomes dryer and colder. The Canadian Rockies don’t officially start until you are around the Alberta border – west of that are the Cariboo, Monashee, Selkirk, and Purcell ranges), each of which rise to over 10,000 feet (3,000 m), but not as high at 14,000 feet peaks you may be familiar with in Colorado.. A good overview of the British Columbia geography can be found at the Wikipedia site http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_British_Columbia#Mountains_and_mountain_ranges. If you live in this area, you will need to learn your “bear etiquette” if you are active outdoors. Both black and grizzly bears, as well as cougar, are found in this area (Vancouver Island does not have grizzlies). Attacks are extremely unlikely (do you worry about being struck by lightning, bee swarms or snake bites where you are now?), but pepper spray is an extremely effective deterrent to attacks if you are concerned. There are a number of excellent works on the subject of bear attacks if this is a worry, the most well-regarded author being Dr. Stephen Herrero, professor of animal behavior at Univ. of Calgary, who authored the definitive Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, which has been described as "authoritative" and "required reading" on the topic. The Craighead brothers also have some excellent writing on “bear etiquette.” Long story short: like the temperature issue, if all the other pieces fit, this should not be a show stopper, any more than tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes prevent you from choosing other locations (assuming you are not building right on top of the San Andreas or New Madrid fault, right next door to a Mt. St. Helens, or something similarly egregious). When I hike alone, I do so in full confidence with my bear spray. For those of you more deeply concerned, there has never been a fatal grizzly attack on a group of six or more people.
The bulk of the population in central BC lives in the Okanagan Valley, in the towns of Pentiction, Kelowna, Vernon, ranging from Osoyoos on the U.S border, up to Kamloops/Salmon River, the most northerly towns of the region (actually, Kamloops is in a slightly different region, but for our purposes, we’ll consider it the same) – a stretch of just under 200 miles. Population of the whole Okanagan/Thompson region is around a half million, but this is spread out among these cities- and others - strung along the valley floor. While the region is lake filled, and an orchard seemingly occurs every kilometer, this area is basically semi-arid. Winters are colder, with an average January high right at 0 C (if you are considering moving, you’ll need to start boning up on your Celsius to Fahrenheit conversions, so I won’t help you this time!) This may not be the right place for the person looking to relocate due to the higher population density. Housing is cheaper than Vancouver, but as the area has much more sun while still moderate temperatures, it is also fairly expensive in that it attracts many retirees. This area might be possible alternative to escape high density population centres while still having access to modern amenities such as a larger airport, high bandwidth internet service, reasonable healthcare access and relatively moderate weather, and certainly solar power might be possible here due to the semi-arid climate. In an economic meltdown situation, this area might be sustainable in that it has a reasonable population of well-heeled retirees; in a zombie apocalypse the area would be marginally acceptable, with negatives being population density packed into a narrow valley floor, positives being large deep lakes, and fertile alluvial land fringing those lakes. Agriculture is currently – and would need to be in an emergency - sustained by irrigation. The issue is moving the abundant water in the lakes (from mountain runoff) onto a semi-arid land.
There are two areas I would suggest for further exploration: The town of Nelson, BC, and the more northerly area west of Prince George, specifically around the towns of Smithers, Houston and Vanderhoof (again, please note I have absolutely zero financial interest in either of these areas, although I am indeed considering one of these areas for my next land purchase….. which will be occurring immediately after I win a Pulitzer Prize for writing this article….)
Nelson is nestled in the Selkirk Mountain Range, along the West Arm of Kootenay Lake and abutting the West Arm Provincial Park, is about 175 miles due north of Spokane, WA., 663 kms (412 miles) from Vancouver, and 624 kms (387 miles) from Calgary. Incorporated in 1897, the town has a long history, and thus is a business and cultural centre for the immediate region. You could start your research at the city website, www.discovernelson.com/htdocs/main.html. If you care to do some preliminary research “on the cheap,” rent the movie Roxanne, with Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah, as this movie was filmed there. Population is a tad over 10,000, but the town feels bigger than that, as it is a business and cultural centre for about 60,000 people in neighboring towns. While some of the interior BC towns can have more of a gritty, run down rough and tumble look and feel about them, Nelson has more of a dignified air about it. As evidence of this, Nelson was the home of David Thompson University, until a funding issue forced its closure in the 1980s. No other town in the interior of BC outside of the Okanagan Valley, could have even considered doing something like that. Think of it as the “little town that almost could!” What this means practically to you, the relocater, is that there is a relatively more erudite, classy community, while you don’t have to pay the price – in terms of crime, pollution, population, etc. – that you would have to pay to get that type of environment elsewhere. There are four distinct seasons, with winter the average January high temp just over freezing. Hardly Siberia. The downside is the lack of a major airport, the nearest of which would be Cranbrook, BC (another possible town to consider, just east of Nelson, slightly larger population, with almost similar merits to Nelson). Much of central B.C. has historically revolved around lumber, which has led to extreme boom and bust cycles. While the economy is now much more diversified, lumber is still a major export - something to be aware of if you are planning for serious economic issues – although one would have an indicator of the impact on a lumber downturn by just looking at the economy since 2008. In a more serious zombie apocalypse, one would be in a small population centre, ample access to water, arable land in the valleys, and a very benign winter.
The final area of consideration – the Vanderhoof, Smithers and Houston areas - are much further north in British Columbia, just west of Prince George, B.C. (Vanderhoof, for example, is 100 km. – an hour’s drive – west of Prince George). This area will not be dealt with in depth, in that is it probably too northerly for most readers. Prince George – metro area population around 80,000 – also has a major regional airport, Univ. of Northern BC, and is the centre for the entire region. Advantages in this targeted region are fishing, hunting, and ample lakes. Prices are much less than the other areas mentioned above. Interestingly, there are reportedly some wealthy people purchasing property in this area, which may provide some relative stability in periods of economic travail, as oftentimes the rich are insulated from downturns, and it may be helpful to hedge one’s bets by being around “where the money is.” On the other hand, in a more pronounced collapse, this area is indeed northerly, with average high temperature in January – 5 C (+23F), and the average low -14C (+7F). Summers are cool as well, with average highs of 23C and lows of 9C. Growing crops, heating of one’s residence – all the challenges of the north – would be present in this region.
There may be sections of B.C. not covered here that may well fit the bill for your needs much better. However, from my having lived in the province for years, and being familiar with a wide range of concerns by preppers, these are the areas that I think would be the best places to start looking, if you choose this province. Again, the main concern about B.C. is that, similar to California, it is a beautiful province that continues to overrun and ruined by leftists, the politically correct and socialism run amok. You will not be in the large population centres – but you will have to live by the rules imposed by these types given their demographic clout.
Next up, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba