10. The Blue Mountains, Ontario

Blue Mountain by Ian Muttoo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

This is the weirdest town on this list and not just because there aren't any mountains in the Town of the Blue Mountains. Collingwood - the largest community nearby - has been exploding even before resort behemoth Intrawest bought Blue Mountain ski resort in 1999 and turned it into the largest and most expensive resort in Ontario. But even though the average income has been rising by leaps and bounds, and even though unemployment is the lowest of any town on this list, people are still leaving: over 1/20th  of the population has left the area after the population had increased by well over 1/5th for the 15 years prior to that. Perhaps the excessive development is scaring people away or the cost of living is too high for a town that is a 2 hour drive from Toronto, the nearest major city. Nobody really knows why, but the Town of the Blue Mountains is dying.

If you are interested in moving there, here is the Ontario government's website geared towards accreditation of international credentials.


9. Lac La Biche, Alberta

Mainstreet Lac La Biche, By Own work (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Lac La Biche by 117Avenue / Wikimedia  Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The rest of Alberta is still exploding from the oil and gas boom: you can still move to Alberta to get paid a ridiculous amount of money for doing a job that pays virtually nothing in the rest of the country. But if you're going to settle in Alberta, don't settle in Lac La Biche. Whereas the rest of northeastern Alberta is growing like gangbusters, nobody is staying in this area: Lac La Biche has seen more than 1/13th of its population leave for the better jobs of just a little bit farther north. The good news is that Fort McMurray is only three hours away, so it's not that hard to move if you're stuck in Lac La Biche already.


8. Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

Yarmouth Downtown

Yarmouth [Public Domain]

Yarmouth is Canada's lobster capital, and that's probably about the only thing noteworthy about it. People are leaving, the ferry to Portland, Maine has stopped running, and unemployment is at a whopping 12.5%. Yartmouth still attracts some tourists - and foodies, obviously - but it doesn't look like a good place to settle down if you are looking to find a job.


7. Dryden, Ontario

Dryden Mill by Dhscommtech at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons

Dryden by Shane Trist / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

After some pretty significant growth in the late '90s, Dryden is now moving the other direction now that the pulp and paper industry has slowed down there. (At least it probably smelled better while the mill was not operational.) Not only do people not want to live in Dryden because of declining industry, but Dryden is also remote and cold. Dryden is a 4 hour drive from Thundery Bay and nearly 4 hours from Winnipeg. And in the winter it averages around 20C below. So that's fun. At least most people who have stayed in Dryden still have jobs.  


6. Digby, Nova Scotia

Digby Harbour, By Aconcagua (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Digby Harbour by Aconcagua / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Digby is a pleasant little town in southwest Nova Scotia which is a significant tourist destination for those from nearby Halifax - 2 1/2 hours away - and Saint John - a 4 hour ferry ride away. The problem is that Digby, aside from losing people 6.5% of its population from 2006 to 2011, has a pretty high unemployment rate; nearly 13%. So whereas it might be a nice place to visit if you're out that way examining historic Acadia, you likely don't want to stay there.  


5. Shippagan, New Brunswick

Shippagan [Public Domain]

On the one hand, Shippagan is the gateway to the gorgeous Miscou Island, one of the great scenic attractions in Canada:

Miscou Island, By New Brunswick Tourism [CC-BY-2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Miscou Island by New Brunswick Tourism / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

On the other hand, Shippagan is located just outside one of the poorest areas of the country, has lost over 6% of its population recently and has over 10% unemployment. Also, it's sort of in the middle of nowhere; nearly 3 hours drive from Moncton, the closest major city.  So you won't find a job anywhere near Shippagan itself, and if you do manage to find a job somewhere else, that will be one long commute.


4. Kitimat, BC

Aerial view of Kitimat By Sam Beebe (Kitimat) [CC-BY-2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Kitimat by Sam Beebe / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Kitimat is an aluminum- and hydro-electricity-driven city located in the middle of nowhere in northwest BC. Aluminum was such a big part of its economy the place was actually built by Alcan. Though a lot of economic improvement is planned for this city, the town has still lost over 7% of its population in recent years, which might have something to do with its location:

View Larger Map

The unemployment rate isn't quite as high as some of the towns on this list, but Prince Rupert is 200km away over winding mountain roads, which must be a lot of fun in winter. (Terrace is 62 km away, however.) You can understand why people don't want to live there. I'm sure it's scenic - when it's not raining that is.  


3. Clare, Nova Scotia

Metgan Post Office in the Municipality of Clare, By Verne Equinox (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Clare by Verne Equinox / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Clare is in significantly worse shape than nearby Digby, though it is home to same historical charms. The municipality has lost slightly less of its population than Digby, but the unemployment is just as bad and - far worse - the wages have been falling; falling farther than any other town on this list. Between the 2006 and 2011 censuses, most of these dying towns at least saw the wages increase slightly for those who stayed behind. Not in the towns of Clare. In Clare, average wages fell by 7.5%. Add that to the 13% unemployment and you really, really don't want to settle here.


2. Inverness, Nova Scotia

Aerial of Inverness Sora 16 at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons

Inverness by Sora 16 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Inverness had the biggest population change in the study: over a five year period nearly 10% of the population left. Why? Well, Inverness used to be a coal-town - I know, you want to move there already - but when the mining stopped, the community never recovered. The only things sustaining it are fishing - it is located in the Maritimes after all - and tourism: access to the Cabot Trail - one of the most scenic drives in Canada - is only 25 minutes away. So Inverness may be a great place to visit, but it's not somewhere you'd want to live. Not only are people moving out, but the unemployment rate was a catastrophic 17% in 2011.  


1. Hearst, Ontario

Hearst, By P199 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Hearst by P199 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

There are few less appetizing places to live in Canada than Hearst. Though the town boasts a university, albeit a very small one - a 'federated school' of Laurentian - it has lost nearly 10% of its population in the last half-decade due to the declining lumber industry and its location in the middle of nowhere: an hour's drive from the bustling metropolis of Kapuskasing, and 6 hours from Sudbury, the closest city of any note. (Hearst is only 3 hours from Timmins, so that's something, I guess. Note: all driving times are summer driving times and do not factor in inclement weather.)

View Larger Map

Unemployment is at a not-horrible-but-still-not-even-average 10% and Hearst is also the most Francophone community in Ontario, so it helps to be bilingual. But look at that map. What are you supposed to do there exactly? Canoe?

If you are interested in moving to Hearst, the government of Ontario has created a site for attracting business immigrants to northern Ontario. Keep in mind that the Ontario business immigration PNP is rather expensive.

For professionals, here is the Ontario government's website.

This article was posted in August, 2013. It has been edited as of March 2014.


Dying Towns?


Ghost Town: Kitsault, BC


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