Ottawa vs Gatineau: where to live?

Living in the National Capital Region has an advantage: a person has access to two cities, two cultures, and two languages, as if they were one. It’s as if Ottawa in Ontario, and Gatineau in Quebec, were Siamese twins, indivisible.

And that is because they have a symbiotic relationship. What would Ottawans do if they didn’t have the gorgeous Gatineau Park on the other side of the river? What would many residents in Gatineau do without the jobs in Ottawa?

Many people who come to live in the National Capital Region wonder where it would be better to live. Certainly, there are many differences among them that you may want to take into account in order to make a decision, and the cost of living is one of those.

1. Housing and Rent

The difference in housing prices and rent is well known. Ottawa properties are more expensive than those in Gatineau and also better valued. Compare the difference. An apartment in downtown Ottawa costs $4,913 a square meter, while in Gatineau it costs $2,016 a square meter.

Likewise, the cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment downtown Ottawa is $1,617, while in Gatineau it is $950.

Hull (Gatineau)

2. Taxes

If you live in Gatineau you’ll pay Quebec taxes, which are higher than in Ontario. https://www.revenuquebec.ca/en/citizens/income-tax-return/completing-your-income-tax-return/income-tax-rates/

For example, if you earn less than $44,500 a year, you pay 15% in Quebec and 5% in Ontario. If you earn no more than $89,000, you pay 20% in Quebec and 9.15% in Ontario. If your salary is up to $150,000 dollars you pay 11.16% in Ontario, and 25.75% in Quebec if it’s more than $108,000.

In the case where a person lives in Gatineau and works in Ottawa, they must pay taxes to Ontario and Quebec, but they can claim in Quebec a refundable tax credit of 45% of the amount paid to Ontario.

3. Education

Primary and secondary education in Gatineau is provided in French. If you have an English background, your children can study in English-speaking schools. The Western Quebec School Board (WQSB) is the English-language school board in the region.

But if you’re an immigrant with no English culture or ancestries, you’re obliged to enroll your kids in a francophone school.

In the case of daycare, this service is subsidized by the Quebec provincial government and costs $7 a day in Gatineau. In Ottawa paying for daycare is a lot more expensive, costing up to $1,100 or more per month.

There are no Catholic schools in Gatineau (unless they are private schools) because the Quebec government promotes secular public education. In Ontario there is a public Catholic school system.

When it comes to college and university education, in Gatineau you pay cheaper fees because the province of Quebec offers subsidized rates to its residents.

4. Health services

Residents in Gatineau always complain about health services. Apparently, it’s very difficult to get a family doctor in Gatineau, and the waiting time to be attended for an emergency is way longer. Fortunately, people from Gatineau can go to Ottawa’s hospitals and use their health cards from Quebec.

If a Gatineau resident pays out of pocket for a doctor in Ottawa, they can ask for a refund from Quebec.

Ruisseau de la Brasserie (Gatineau)

5. Jobs

The number of jobs on offer is more limited in Gatineau. That’s why many residents of Gatineau cross the river to work in Ottawa where many government offices and agencies are, as well as the offices of high-tech companies. There is also a massive federal government office complex in Gatineau.

6. Utilities

The monthly price of utilities is more expensive in Ottawa. For example, for an 85 square-meter apartment, the cost of paying for services such as electricity, heating, and water would be $91.67 on average in Gatineau, while in Ottawa the comparable services would cost $148.96.

7. Food

In general, the cost of groceries is cheaper in Gatineau, except for a few items that can be cheaper in Ottawa, like bottled water and dairy products.

Eddy Street (Gatineau)

8. Languages

English is predominant in Ottawa, while French is predominant in Gatineau. But you don’t need to speak French to live in Gatineau. Most people in Gatineau are bilingual, while it is a little more difficult to find fully bilingual people in Ottawa.

The exception is when you go to government agencies in Ottawa, because all the employees, especially, those who work with the public, speak both languages.

Downtown Gatineau

9. Transportation

Public transportation services in Gatineau are run by STO, while in Ottawa the services are provided by OC Transpo.  A one-way ticket in Gatineau costs $3.90, while in Ottawa the cost is $3.60. But if you buy a monthly pass you’ll pay $96 in Gatineau and $119.50 in Ottawa.

10. Car insurance

Car insurance rates in Gatineau are much lower than in Ottawa. That’s because the province of Quebec, which has the cheapest rates in Canada, covers health-related expenses in case of car accidents. Compare: the annual rate for car insurance in Quebec averages $717, while in Ontario the average is $1,505.

As you see, the cost of living is cheaper in Gatineau compared to Ottawa. https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?country1=Canada&city1=Gatineau&country2=Canada&city2=Ottawa But there are other aspects that you might want to evaluate before jumping to the decision of changing your place of residence.

One thing that I have heard is that it is a big hassle for Gatineau residents to deal with the traffic and congestion on the bridges that connect the city with Ottawa. And since many of them work in Ottawa, that is an everyday nuisance.

So, what do you think? Does it sound appealing to you, the idea of moving to Gatineau because of the cheaper cost of living? Share your thoughts. Take care.

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