Electricity, Phone, Internet, TV, Radio, Public Transportation, Banking, Postal and Other Services in CanadaIf you plan to make a transition to Canada sometime in the near future, either to pursue an educational or employment opportunity or to relocate to the country permanently, there are several things you will need to get accomplished upon your arrival. And to manage these tasks, you will definitely need to acquaint yourself with the many local services available in the country. To help you settle into your new home with the least amount of hassle and frustration possible, below we have described, in detail, some of the basic local services available in Canada—services across a wide range of industry sectors. These include banking services; local and long-range transportation; mail and postal services, including regular mail procedures and parcels; television and Internet providers, both cable and satellite; and the top mobile telephone services.
Banking Services in Canada
If you intend to move to Canada from the United States or Western Europe, the banking services you can expect to receive will be quite similar, if not identical, to those of which you accustomed. In Canada you will find a number of very large banks with branches located throughout the country, as well as smaller banks that cater only to certain provinces and territories.
The largest banks in Canada are known as the "Big Five Banks" and they could be called the "flagship" group of banks which serve as a shining example of banking stability to the world. They are a model of financial reliability in the international banking industry, and are recognized as such. Below we have provided a brief review of these five banks which together account for 85% of Canada's banking system.
Royal Bank of Canada
The largest bank in the country, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC Royal Bank) has assets totaling $655 billion with deposits of $398.2 billion. It has 1,197 branches spread throughout Canada, and employs 71,186 workers.
Toronto-Dominion Bank, also known as TD Canada Trust, is Canada’s second largest financial institution. The bank boasts $557 billion in total assets, $391 billion in deposits, and has 1,116 branches with 65,930 employees.
Bank of Nova Scotia
The Bank of Nova Scotia, also known as “ScotiaBank,” is the third largest bank in Canada, with 496.5 billion in assets and $350 billion in deposits. It possesses 1,019 branches with 607,802 employees.
Bank of Montreal
In fourth place is the Bank of Montreal, abbreviated as “BMO.” This large bank has a total of $388.5 billion in assets, $236.2 billion in deposits but it only has 900 branches. It employs 36,173 employees.
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce
The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) is Canada’s fifth-largest bank, with $335.9 billion in total assets and $223.1 billion in deposits. CIBC has 1,072 branches and employs 41,941 people.
Royal Bank has consistently been the largest bank by a large margin. The rankings of the other four banks have changed, especially since the 1990's and after, due to reorganization and acquisitions both within Canada and internationally.
These five banks have exhibited a most stunning stability in recent years in spite of the financial crises that have emerged within the banking sectors of other countries, most notably the U.S. banks. Interestingly, while interest rates were similar in both countries and they also possess "too large to fail" banks, operating policies differed considerably. Canada has within its government an overseer called The Financial Consumer Agency. This office, in part, protects consumers from lending irregularities by financial institutions.
Sometimes you might see the "Big Six Banks" term used, which is essentially the same "Big Five Banks" plus the National Bank of Canada, not to be confused with The Bank of Canada (the Canadian central bank). The only banks listed as Canadian chartered national banks are the "Big Six Banks", and Laurentian Bank of Canada.
All of these Canadian banks, as well as the smaller, local banks, offer:
- Current accounts
- Savings and investment accounts
- Credit and debit card services
- Personal loans and overdrafts
- And much more…
When choosing a Canadian bank with which to do business, new customers should take a variety of factors into consideration, not the least of which are:
- Location. The location of the bank you choose is an important consideration. Though you may think the bank nearest to your home, school, or office makes the most sense, this may not be the best option for you depending on the types of services that bank offers. Banks with many branches throughout the country, such as RBC Royal Bank, Bank of Montreal, Toronto-Dominion Bank and CIBC, tend to offer more services than many of the smaller local banks, often at a much lower cost. Therefore when choosing a bank, make sure you do a little research to discover the services they offer and make your decision based on the type and quality of services that are most important to you (ATM service, Internet banking, etc.) rather than the bank’s proximity.
- Branches and ATM Distribution? The larger banks in Canada offer hundreds of branches scattered throughout each of the ten provinces and three territories. As a customer, that usually means you can conduct your business at any of these branches, regardless of where you happen to open your account—this a definite advantage if you plan to travel throughout Canada during your stay. Moreover, the more branches a bank has the greater number of Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) you are likely to find, allowing you to access your money on the go without having to pay additional fees. Keep in mind that ATM machines not affiliated with your particular banking institution can charge up to $5 dollars per transaction, and you may be penalized even further by your home branch for using a non-network ATM.
- Online banking. Although fairly new to the banking world, Internet banking has revolutionized the way in which most Canadians monitor and manage their accounts. Internet banking makes it easy to keep track of your balance, transfer money between accounts, and pay all of your bills without ever having to leave the comfort of your home or office.
- Price. As a banking patron, it is critical you read the fine print with regard to prices and fees before opening any type of account. Some banks charge a “monthly service” charge to customers who open checking accounts, particularly those customers whose balance does not meet a certain minimum balance requirement. Charges can also be levied for ATM usage, particularly non-network machines, and for the use of credit and debit cards. “Insufficient funds” and “returned items” are another two categories in which the cost of a checking account can quickly add up if you neglect to monitor and balance your accounts.
Transportation Services in Canada
Canada is a highly developed country whose economy depends on the extraction and exportation of raw materials. As a result, the country has a well-developed transportation system which includes nearly 650,000 miles of roads, ten international airports, 300 smaller airports, 44,797 miles of functioning railway track, and more than 300 commercial ports and harbors that provide access to the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans as well as the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Last year, the transportation sector made up nearly 5 percent of Canada's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Highways in Canada
There is a total of 647,700 miles of roads in Canada, of which 258,200 miles are paved, including 11,000 miles of expressways (the third-longest in the world, behind the Interstate Highway System of the United States and the China's National Trunk Highway System). As of 2013, some 385,000 roads were unpaved.
In 2013, there were over 20 million road vehicles registered in Canada, of which 96% were vehicles that weighed less than 4.5 tons. Collectively, these vehicles travelled a total of 333.29 billion kilometers. Highways can be found throughout Canada, stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northwards to the Arctic Circle.
Internationally, Canada has road links with both the lower 48 US states and Alaska. The Ministry of Transportation maintains the road network in Ontario and also employs Ministry of Transport Enforcement Officers for the purpose of administering the Canada Transportation Act and related regulations. The Department of Transportation in New Brunswick performs a similar task in that province as well.
The safety of Canada's roads is moderately good by international standards, and is improving both in terms of accidents per capita and per billion-vehicle kilometers.
Air Transportation Services in CanadaIn 2013, air transportation made up 9% of the transport sector's GDP generation. Canada's largest air carrier and its flagship carrier is Air Canada, which last year served nearly 40 million customers with 370 aircraft.
The Canadian Transportation Agency employs transportation enforcement officers to maintain aircraft safety standards, and conduct periodic aircraft inspections of all air carriers. The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority is charged with the responsibility of securing air traffic within Canada.
The ten largest airports in Canada, as measured by passenger traffic last year, are:
- Toronto Pearson International Airport—33.4 million passengers
- Vancouver International Airport—17 million passengers
- Montréal-Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport—13.7 million passengers
- Calgary International Airport—12.8 million passengers
- Edmonton International Airport—6.1 million passengers
- Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport—4.5 million passengers
- Halifax Stanfield International Airport—3.5 million passengers
- Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport—3.4 million passengers
- Victoria International Airport—1.5 million passengers
- Kelowna International Airport—1.4 million passengers
Railways and Bus Transportation in Canada
Nationwide passenger services in Canada are provided by the federal crown corporation Via Rail. Three Canadian cities are served by commuter rail services: in the Montreal area by AMT, in the Toronto area by GO Transit, and in the Vancouver area by West Coast Express. Smaller railways such as Ontario Northland, Rocky Mountaineer, and Algoma Central also run passenger trains to remote rural areas.
Canada also has rail links with the lower 48 US States, but no connection with Alaska other than a train ferry service from Prince Rupert, British Columbia, although a line has been proposed. There are no other international rail connections.
Most Canadian cities have public transportation, if only a bus system. In 2012, 11% of Canadians used public transportation to get to work. This compares to 80.0% that got to work using a car (72.3% by driving, 7.7% as a passenger), 6.4% that walked and 1.3% that rode a bike.
Six Canadian cities have rapid transit systems and three have commuter rail systems. The rapid transit systems include the Montreal Metro, Toronto Subway, the Vancouver SkyTrain, the Calgary C-Train, the Edmonton Light Rail Transit and the O-Train in Ottawa. Commuter rail systems include the GO Transit line in Toronto, the Agence Metropolitaine de Transport in Montreal, and the west Coast Express in Vancouver.
There is also an Airport Circulator, the LINK Train at Toronto Pearson International Airport. It operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is wheelchair-accessible. It is free of cost.
Postal Services in Canada
Most postal services in Canada are handled by the Canadian Post Corporation, known locally as the Canadian Post (Postes Canada in French). This is the crown corporation that functions as the country’s primary postal operator.
Originally known as Royal Mail Canada (the operating name of the Post Office Department of the Canadian government founded in 1867), rebranding was done to the “Canada Post” name in the late 1960s, even though it had not yet been separated from the government. On October 16, 1981, the Canada Post Corporation Act came into effect. That abolished the Post Office Department and created the present day Crown corporation which provides postal services. The act aimed to set a new direction for the postal service, with the goal of creating a more reliable service and to ensure the postal service's financial security and independence.
Canada Post provides service to 14.8 million addresses, delivering 11.6 billion items in 2012. Delivery takes place via traditional "to the door" service by 15,000 letter carriers, supplemented by a 7,000 vehicle fleet in rural and suburban areas, and truck delivery of parcels. There are 6,500 post offices across the country, a combination of corporate offices and dealerships that are operated by private retailers in conjunction with a host retail business, such as a drugstore. In terms of area serviced, Canada Post delivers to a larger area than the postal service of any other nation, including Russia (where service in Siberia is limited largely to communities along the railway). As of 2004, nearly 843,000 rural Canadian customers received residential mail delivery services.
The Corporation has a directory of all its products and services, called the Postal Guide, on its website and has divided its range of services into two main categories: Letter Mail and Parcels.
Letter MailThe letter mail service in Canada allows the sending and receiving of virtually any paper document. The current cost for a standard letter if $.65 (30 g or less) and $1.10 for a letter between 30 g and 50 g. The rate is regulated by a price-cap formula, linked to the inflation rate. The Canadian Post now has a “permanent” stamp that is valued at the domestic rate forever, eliminating the need to buy 1 cent stamps after a rate increase. The rates for letter mail are based on weight and size and determine whether the article falls into the aforementioned standard format, or in the oversize one.
Mail sent internationally is known as letter-post. It can only contain paper documents. The current rate for a standard letter is $1.10 if sent to the United States and $1.85 if sent to any other destination.
ParcelsCanada Post offers four domestic parcel services. The rates are based on distance, weight, and size. The maximum acceptable weight is 30 kg.
- Regular Parcel. Expected delivery time ranges from 2 to 13 business days, depending on the destination.
- Expedited Parcel. Available only to business customers. Delivery time ranges from 1 to 13 business days, depending on the destination.
- Xpresspost. Xpresspost is a service for parcels and documents. Delivery time ranges from 1 to 2 business days between major centers, and up to 7 business days to more remote areas.
- Priority. Priority is also a service for parcels and documents, providing next business day service between major centers, and service within 7 business days to more remote locations.
Television, Internet and Telephone Services in Canada
These days it seems like it would be difficult to survive without television, internet and cellular phone service—the technologies that allow us to communicate with the outside world and provide a primary source of entertainment. To help you get connected fast, below we have provided a list of some of the top providers for each of these services in Canada.
Although a small number of channels are available at no cost in certain areas of Canada, the reception can be spotty. As a result, most people opt to connect their televisions through a cable or satellite provider. Here are some of the more popular choices:
Major Cable Television Providers in Canada
- Access Communications—serving Regina, Saskatchewan
- EastLink—serving Atlantic Canada and Greater Sudbury, Ontario
- Coast Cable—serving British Columbia
- Delta Cable—serving British Columbia
- Northern Cablevision—serving Alberta
- Rush—serving Nova Scotia
- Cable Axion—serving Quebec
- Cablevision—serving Quebec
- Cogeco Cable—serving Southern and Eastern Ontario and Central Quebec
- Dery—serving Quebec
- Novus Entertainment—serving Vancouver
- Rogers Cable—serving Greater Toronto Area, London, Ontario, Ottawa, New
- Shaw Communications - Western Canada, Northern Ontario
- Vidéotron – Quebec
- Westman - Brandon, Manitoba and surrounding areas
Satellite television is the latest and greatest technology, providing viewers around the world, clear and crisp pictures, as well as sound. While there remains some minor tweaks to be made, satellite television has consistently out-ranked cable television in the past few years. Today, we see more and more people upgrading to an enhanced television solution, which is why the number of providers throughout the world is on the rise.
The following two companies are the largest satellite providers in Canada. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these are only two of the many quality options offered to satellite consumers.
- Bell Express VU – Rated as one of the top satellite television providers in Canada, this company also offers various services including phone, wireless, and internet.
- Star Choice – When it comes to digital satellite television, Star Choice is hard to beat. Now providing viewers with 370 plus channels, Star Choice is an excellent satellite programming solution. Other benefits associated with this particular company include pay-per-view events and movies, state-of-the-art Motorola hardware, onscreen, interactive programming guide, and many excellent programming packages.
As the internet continues to grow and expand, an increasing number of companies are now offering high-speed Internet services to customers throughout Canada. Some of the more popular Internet Service Providers in the nation are:
- Seaside Communications
- Internet Access Worldwide
- Net Access Systems
- Community Networks Inc.
- East Link
- My Signal
- Silo Wireless Inc.
- ICA Wireless
- Compton Communications
- Storm Internet Services
Cellular telephones and telephone services are no longer seen as a luxury but have become a part of everyday society, allowing people to stay connected through voice, text, data and pictures. As of the fourth fiscal quarter of 2013, there were over 27 million wireless subscriptions in Canada. Approximately 90% of cell phone users subscribe to one of the three largest Canadian telecom companies Rogers Wireless, Bell Mobility, and Telus Mobility. Below we have listed some of the cellular providers in Canada, beginning with the largest.
- Rogers Wireless—9.5 million subscribers
- Tellus Mobility—8 million subscribers
- Bell Wireless—7.8 million subscribers
- Globalive Wireless—676,000 subscribers
- SaskTel—608,000 subscribers
- MTS Mobility—476,000 subscribers
- Videotron Mobile—503,000 subscribers
- DAVE Wireless—190,000 subscribers