As the capital of the Canadian province of British Columbia, Victoria is considered one of the nation’s prettiest cities. Located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, the city is a hub for government, business and academics. But economics and possibilities aren’t the city’s biggest draw—it’s the city’s weather and walkability.
It’s no surprise, then, that the city grew significantly in the last decade. In the five years before 2006, Victoria’s population grew by less than 1%. Yet, between 2006 and 2011, the number of residents grew by more than 5% and again another 2.5% between 2011 and 2016. This has put a strain on the real estate market in Victoria.
But even if you do fall in love with the early spring weather—which typically starts in February or March each year—that doesn’t mean all is blissful in this west coast urban centre.
As a result, people are actually starting to leave Victoria, B.C. and choosing to set up shop elsewhere in Canada. Here are their reasons why.
It’s not friendly: People are colder than a “prairie winter”
Visiting Victoria? Then you’re bound to walk away with more than a few stories of that famous Canadian friendliness. But those that move to the city don’t always get the same reception.
“I moved here four years ago with my family from Sidney, Ontario with the hope of having a better lifestyle and unlimited opportunity,” wrote Kevin in a comment made on Topix.com. “What we found is that people here are colder than a prairies winter.” Kevin added, “The place is beautiful but the pretty beaches and the trees do not make up for the island’s lack of personality.”
Kevin isn’t the only who’s complained of feeling like an outsider. Quite a number of new transplants to Victoria find it tough to break-in. As another forum commenter states: “Victoria is not a nice place to live. Dig a little deeper [and you’ll notice that] the general cultural attitude is cold, aloof, dead inside, uptight, socially cliquey, standoffish…” and so on.
“My advice,” writes Kevin, “[don’t] give up your real family and friends for the crap the island offers. Come [to Victoria] for a vacation, only.”
It’s stagnant: Lack of career advancement
When Cait Flanders, a well-respected personal finance blogger and author of The Year of Less, graduated with her communications degree she was thrilled to start working for the B.C. government. It was a good gig and allowed her to stay in her hometown of Victoria, B.C. Eventually, her dreams were dashed when the provincial government implemented a hiring freeze and took away any possibility of Cait’s career advancement.
“At that point, I convinced myself I had to move away, in order to have the career I wanted,” she writes on her blog. “It got to the point where I was constantly looking at job boards, searching for something in Toronto and daydreaming about escaping Victoria. With a population of [just over] 350,000, it’s not exactly a small town, but there is typically only one or two degrees of separation from everyone you meet.”
For many, the draw to Victoria is a job opportunity or the prospect of career advancement. This is particularly true for tech-sector workers who are enticed to the city by the possibility of either private sector or government jobs. But once in the position, you may find there is little room for advancement—and this can certainly impact your overall earnings as the years go by.
As another Topix.com commenter writes, “I know many ex-Victorians who moved to Ontario and Alberta to make better money and actually have a wealthier life.”
It’s expensive: High living costs
Victoria is rated second-least affordable housing market in Canada, behind neighbouring Vancouver, according to the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey. According to Demographia’s calculations, it takes almost seven times the annual salary for a resident of Victoria to pay the cost of an average house in the city. Any city with a ratio above five times is considered a severely unaffordable place to live.
As Robin writes, “Victoria wages are sub par and various living expenses are above-par.” She isn’t the only one who feels this way with another commenter stating: “You will get squeezed with cheap wages and high housing costs.” He adds, “this only gets worse as the upward-mobility job prospects in Victoria are limited.”
It’s boring: Fear the banana slug
While Victoria wasn’t originally nominated for the Canadian Boring Awards—a tongue-and-cheek examination of all that is tedious about this nation—it did step in at the last minute when the people of Abbotsford, B.C. complained.
And why not? As Times Colonist columnist Jack Knox explains, “Ours is a government town full of old hippies and older retirees, a city of bureaucracy, B.C. Bud and rat race refugees whose only goal is to go slower.”
While all these jokes about being the most boring city in Canada is done in humorous fun, there is a shred of truth. Victoria tends to lean towards a sleepy town feel. It’s not known for its raging nightlife. As Knox explains, “Our passion is gardening, our most-feared predator the banana slug.”
Those craving more than an eight-hour day will most certainly head away from this harbour city.
Commuting is costly: Fear the ferry schedule
Victoria is located on Vancouver Island. While the idea of living on an island sounds like paradise on earth, the concept can get old when your only way in and out is by ferry. But the tedious trek isn’t the only reason why people opt to move from the city rather than commute by ferry. It’s the cost.
“You’ll spend more than $40,000 a year and [as much as] five extra hours a day commuting to the Lower Mainland,” explains Scott Brown in his Vancouver Sun article. You can chop that commute time down to about 40 minutes, but only if you’re willing to spend close to $400 per day back and forth float-plane rides. “It’s possible to commute…on the cheap, as long as your time means absolutely nothing to you.”
The Bottom Line
While there are plenty of reasons to love the city of Victoria, many people have bailed on this city. The high cost of living, low chance of career advancement and a variety of other reasons have prompted more than a few ex-Victorians to say goodbye to B.C.’s capital.