Canada is United States’ friendly neighbor to the North, and this sole fact has solidified the idea of doing business in Canada for many entrepreneurs. Apart from its closeness to the U.S. and its residents’ jovial reputation, there are some fruitful business-related perks associated with expanding into the country.
U.S. companies tend to benefit from operating internationally regarding corporate tax rates. According to reports, as of 2019, the United States’ national rate sits at 21%, where local rates vary, and branch rates are at 21%/31%.
This can be a huge cost for companies which is why many seek global operation options. Also, as of 2019, the Canadian corporate tax rate was 15%, which is one of the lowest internationally. Through an effort to drive economic growth in the country, Canadian officials continue to adjust these tax rates.
To give you an idea of how quickly it’s moving down the scale, it was 18% in 2010. It’s also crucial to note that businesses headquartered outside of the country are expected to pay income tax on the profits earned from Canadian operation.
But, there is a treaty that relieves some of the economic burdens. If your company does not have a permanent establishment (PE), which is defined in the income tax treaty, your operational profits are not subject to Canadian income tax.
You should also understand that you’re not automatically off the hook if you do not have a PE. You need to pay compliance costs and claim the benefit of the treaty exemption by filing a Canadian tax return with details of your in-country operations. Using a partner service may be the best option for you to ensure you’re remaining compliant.
This unique nation, Canada, shares many traditions with the United States and this has made things easier especially for local business owners who want to begin operations up north. Canadian demographics are also similar to the United States’.
They share very close statistics to America in terms of religion and ethnicity. English is also one of the country’s official languages, along with French. In terms of language, the people of Quebec, the second-most populated division in Canada, speak primarily French.
In 2011, Canada ranked #1 in Forbes’ Best Countries for Business. The country earned its top spot due to its trade freedom, investor protection, low corruption, minimal red tape and low corporate tax rates. As of December 2018, Canada ranks #6 on the Forbes list; the United States sits at #17.
Also, Canada’s stable economic growth from 2005 to 2014 is impressive because it withstood the test of the financial crisis, which began in 2008. The country’s major banks came out of the crisis as some of the strongest in the world. But where in Canada is the best place to start a business? We’re showing you the top cities in Canada for business opportunities.
20 Best Cities in Canada to Start a Business and Succeed
Table of Contents
Collingwood is situated in Simcoe County, Ontario. Collingwood is one of the best Canadian cities for entrepreneurs. It scored the highest point in the Entrepreneurial Communities released by Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). The CFIB gave scores to cities based on three categories.
The three categories were based on the presence which emphasized the growth of business ownership, the perspective which accounted for business optimism and the policy of the local government with respect to regulations and taxes. The unemployment rate has been decreasing in Collingwood over the past few years.
Also, it is an employment hub for the South Georgian Bay region. Collingwood has a steady increase in population growth in recent times and this has led to an increase in the business community. The top five industries that are well-known in Collingwood include healthcare, construction, entertainment, advanced manufacturing and recreation.
Immediately you hear Edmonton, you think of the oil and manufacturing industries. Even their hockey team is called the Oilers. In 1947, oil was discovered in the town, boosting the population growth quickly. Although oil is still a large industry, it’s also competing with new businesses that are being created in the city. There are several factors that contribute to this shift in industries.
The communities in Edmonton are very supportive of small business ventures. In fact, there are organizations that are setup specifically to support businesses. The Edmonton Research Park is a great place to research various topics in medicine and the sciences. The Edmonton Economic Development Corp. works to build development within the city.
Montreal was rated as one of the top 20 startup ecosystems in the world. Montreal has plenty of opportunities to offer businesses. Montreal’s tight-knit community regularly supports new businesses with events like Startupfest and incubators like Notman House and Montreal NewTech (among others).
In a recent report which took a look at the venture capital activity in the city, Montreal surpassed all other cities on the list by raising more funds ($4.4 billion CAD) than other cities surveyed.
This large influx of capital and support is due in large part to Montreal becoming a world-renowned leader in AI in recent years, with Element AI raising over $100 million USD in VC funding — the largest amount invested in AI to date. Montreal’s affordable real estate market is also enticing for businesses and young talents to move to the area, where the low cost of living brings in a high standard of living.
Saskatoon is a city situated on the South Saskatchewan River and in the middle of the country. It’s near major highways that connect the east and the west. So it’s great for businesses to transport their goods across the country. Businesses big and small have moved to or started here, and the lifestyle and vibe of the city have much to do with it.
Just like many Canadian cities, Saskatoon is home to a large university, the University of Saskatchewan. This research university perpetuates creative thinking and technological advances. And many of the students graduate from the University looking to start their own ventures.
Also, over half of the population is college educated and they’re putting their education to use by investing in their community through small business ventures. Also, when starting a new business, every dollar is important. And the cost of living is what’s drawing more businesses to Saskatoon.
So if you’re looking for small business opportunities, this is the place to go. The average home price hovers around $400,000. The sales tax is some of the lowest in the country, at only 5%. Businesses themselves also have the lower taxes in the country compared to other provinces. And household utilities are even below the national average.
This city is well-placed to attract talent and companies from all over the world, thanks to the affordable cost of living and multi-industry opportunities. Winnipeg is increasingly being seen as a smart place to do business and invest, thanks to it’s unique combination of work-life balance, affordability, and a diversified economy.
The city has a longstanding economic base in several industry sectors including agribusiness, advanced manufacturing, information and communications technology, transportation and distribution, among others.
These industries have created a highly diversified economy, leading to market stability and a reliable talent pool for jobs of all skill levels. All these are reflected in part through the companies that have decided to headquarter their businesses here: Winnipeg has the third-highest number of head offices per 100,000 population in Canada.
Kelowna is a city in the south of British Columbia province in Canada. On the 2016 list of top entrepreneurial cities in Canada, Kelowna was ranked number one. But, at present, Kelowna is Canada’s most entrepreneurial cities surpassing major cities of Toronto and Vancouver.
There has been a recent economic growth in the city, especially in the technology sector. In fact, in the last two years, there has been an increase in the number of technological startups in the region. The Okanagan region, of which Kelowna is a part of, has shown an increase of 13% tech startups on a year on year basis.
Grande Prairie, Alberta
Most entrepreneurs think of Grande Prairie as just another Alberta oil town, but its statistics and facts cast a much different light. Alberta’s 7th largest city in the province is one of the best places in Canada for small business opportunities outside of the oil industry.
The local government helps make this community one of the best places to start a business in Canada. People looking for small business opportunities can get a $10,000 grant from the City for new housing units. And any new residential building built in the downtown area are free of property tax for three years. Those kind of numbers will make anyone want to invest in this community.
Toronto is renowned as being the most diverse city in the world, which means that it is open to foreign nationals who are looking for a good business environment. As Canada’s largest city, Toronto serves as Canada’s de facto financial, industrial, commercial, and tech hub.
Due to its sheer size and opportunity, over 2,500 to 4,100 startups call the city home thanks to its lower cost of R&D (versus Silicon Valley, New York, Boston, and so forth) and the government-sponsored refunds on R&D investments (reported to be as high as 65% of the investment).
Furthermore, a key component of Toronto’s future in tech is evidenced in the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE), which supports businesses through their varying stages of development (helping over 5,500 entrepreneurs across the province open new businesses).
High River is now the most protected town in Canada from flooding. To date, over $100 million has been invested in flood mitigation and protection. This city offers family-friendly neighborhoods and the vast array of cultural and recreational opportunities are just a few of the amenities that make High River such a desirable place to put down roots.
Also note that the town offers more than 1,000 unique businesses including fashion boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants. A variety of churches, grocery stores and banks are available for day to day needs and, there’s live music, a movie theatre and a large Recreation Complex to keep you happy, healthy and entertained.
As a lifestyle community, High River has its own Hospital and a variety of medical and dental offices, including pharmacies. Veterinary Clinics, pet grooming and kennels are offered for furry family members as well. High River is also a senior-friendly community and offers long-term care facilities as well as handy-bus services for those residents with mobility concerns.
Vancouver is situated on the west coast seaport of British Columbia. Nearly 40% of the downtown real estate is occupied by technological industries. It is also home to a large number of video games studios in the world. Vancouver is known as one of the livable and greenest cities in the world, hence it is a city where the number of green products is increasing.
Some of the fast growing sectors in the city include green building, carbon finance and investment, environmental protection, alternative energy resources and others. The cross-cultural ties with Europe and Asia, together with business friendly immigration policies have made it possible for entrepreneurs to choose Vancouver for their business operations.
Squamish, British Columbia
A beautiful little city located north of Vancouver is one of the best places in the country for small business opportunities. This idyllic speck on the coast of Canada is so beautiful, residents and tourists flock to this area to enjoy the great outdoors.
The community’s love for nature and adventure helps perpetuate its passion for small businesses, particularly in the environmentally friendly sector. Meanwhile, this community is extremely supportive of small and local businesses. A supportive community makes new businesses want to hang their hats here. They are a community focused on clean energy and preserving the breathtaking nature that surrounds them.
This, coupled with their passion for the outdoors makes it an inviting places for new ventures. And some of the lowest commercial property taxes are found in Squamish. The property tax rate is only 1.2%. This makes it easier for businesses to make their mark.
Vaughan is a modern Canadian city offering growing markets, a business-friendly government, and a balance of reasonable costs, taxation, and regulations for its residents and businesses. The City of Vaughan has demonstrated a strong will and commitment to economic growth by attracting investment in infrastructure and city building.
This includes rapid transit, highways and human health services like the new $1.6 billion Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital. Vaughan is the only community outside of the City of Toronto to get three rapid transit subway stations, including the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre – Vaughan’s new downtown.
Proudly a relatively small city (population: 550,000) located 60 miles west of Toronto, Waterloo isn’t the first thought that comes to mind when one thinks of doing business. But that also makes it Canada’s best-kept secret.
Even with its smaller population, over 1,100 new ventures have sprung up, making the area rank as having the highest startup density of any region in the world besides Silicon Valley. This is due, in large part, to the promising talent from the University of Waterloo, which has over 30,000 undergraduates and its world-class engineering program.
And for startups, The Accelerator Centre assists entrepreneurs with, in their own words, “building and scaling sustainable, globally competitive companies and giving startups the highest probability of long-term success.” For new businesses looking to ride the modern tech wave, Canada’s best-kept secret is definitely edging towards becoming mainstream.
Lethbridge is the southern Alberta hub for both traditional industries and emerging technologies. Lethbridge thinkers, makers and doers are leading change in Agriculture, Food Sciences and Manufacturing within a community that is propelled by innovative research and a spirit of entrepreneurship. The city’s economy has always been distinguished by the ability of businesses and entrepreneurs to adapt and innovate with changing times.
The agriculture sector, long a mainstay of the region’s economy, is shifting from pure production to an increased focus on value-added processing. This city is home to a thriving technology sector, driven by a growing workforce and fueled by the bright minds at post-secondary institutions and research centers.
This diverse business community includes small businesses and global corporations, 100-year-old companies to the ever-evolving roster of tech startups based out of the Tecconnect center for entrepreneurship and innovation. As the city continues to grow towards a population of 100,000, Lethbridge remains at the intersection of innovation for business, commerce and education in southern Alberta.
Whitby is one of the fastest growing municipalities in Ontario and Canada. It is centrally located and part of the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area, Canada’s economic engine. While steeped in history, Whitby has grown into a vibrant and progressive character making it an incredible place to live and do business.
Whitby possesses a very diverse economy, a well-educated and skilled workforce as a result of outstanding post secondary institutions in the community, excellent transportation options to connect businesses to the rest of the world, and a competitive cost environment to support the industry.
At the center of the Annapolis Valley, rests Kentville which is a great place to do business. It is a hub for legal, professional, financial, government and health services. Also, it has the highest per capita ratio of professionals than any other place in Canada, hence it is one of the best Canadian cities for entrepreneurs. Also, if you are interested in opening hotels or restaurants, Kentville is the best place to do so.
Kentville is well-known for restaurants, pubs, cafes and other eateries, so the service sector is the main focus of Kentville. As per the 2016 Entrepreneurial Communities Report, Kentville was ranked as the seventh best place in Canada for startups to grow their business. This means that it has one of the most active and entrepreneur-friendly business communities in the country.
Granby is considered the “service center” of the County and has a business community that includes small, mid-sized and large businesses in every industry including construction, food service, utilities, public administration, civic administration, real estate, recreation and lodging. Although located on Highway 40 and surrounded by lakes, mountains, and rivers, Granby is perfectly suited for a year-round business or seasonal specialty store.
New commercial and residential development and a “Main Street” downtown revitalization initiative further strengthens the commercial core. The purpose of these grants are to provide available funds to business owners to renovate, paint, remodel, landscape, sign or further enhance the facade of their business.
Burlington scored in the top 10 for Canada’s Best Places for Business, placing third in Ontario overall. Features highlighted include Burlington’s low unemployment, its strong connectivity to major markets, and its well-educated population. Sixty-five per cent of Burlington’s adult population has completed a bachelor’s degree.
Burlington is ideally situated in the heart of North America’s biggest market, with deep talent pools and an extensive transportation network accessible by highway, rail, air and water. The ranking was designed to help entrepreneurs and executives make smarter decisions on where to start, expand or locate their enterprises within Canada.
Moose Jaw was also identified as one of the Top Ten Business Friendly Places. Note that intensified cropping and livestock production in the area are attracting ag-processing related development. Seed processing plants have recently opened and are taking advantage of pulse crops grown in the area.
Moose Jaw is a major agricultural equipment supplier and service center supporting a strong and growing agricultural sector. Moose Jaw ranks high by site selectors due to access to highways, rail, power, gas, water, communications, and a trained workforce. Moose Jaw is growth-focused with aggressive tax policies to attract investment capital.
Moose Jaw serves as the western anchor to the Moose Jaw-Regina Economic Corridor, one of the largest economic regions in the province. The Corridor accounts for 20 per cent of Saskatchewan’s GDP and 24 per cent of its population. The area showcases some of most productive lands on the planet, helping to drive the local economy.
Milton, Ontario is only a short drive west of Toronto and is located close to Pearson International Airport. But it’s not just known for its proximity to one of Canada’s largest city. In fact, Milton is quickly becoming known as one of Canada’s fastest growing cities.
It is no longer a hidden notion that the local municipalities are key to making an area a great place for new business ventures, and Milton is one of those cities that have a supportive local government. The business taxes are also important to consider when you’re looking at this area for new small business opportunities.
The commercial property tax is only around 1.7%. Milton also has the Milton Education Village Innovation Centre where entrepreneurs can go for help in starting their businesses. There they can receive education and assistance from professionals.
They can also use this center to network with other entrepreneurs. The small town atmosphere is a far cry from the busy Toronto just east of them. And that’s what people like about this area! In fact, the average home is only around $500,000 as opposed to Toronto’s million dollar abodes.
As an entrepreneur, there’s a lot to consider before you open the doors of your new business. Aside from the above-stated cities, Ottawa, Calgary, Barrie, Sherbrooke, Penticton are also some of Canada’s most entrepreneurial cities. So if you are looking for a suitable location for your business, then it’s advisable you conduct detailed research of cities with the help of a resource center in Canada.