Known as “la belle province” (the beautiful province) to its locals, Quebec is Canada’s largest province and home to approximately 7,900,000 people. Quebec is a vibrant multicultural province, often earning it recognition as the “Europe of North America”. Quebec is also famous for its vast forests, rolling hills and countless waterways. In fact, Quebec has over 1,000,000 lakes and waterways, giving it more fresh water than any other province.
Quebec is the only province whose official language is French. The capital city is Quebec City, with a population of 700,000. Quebec is also home to Canada’s second largest city, and the second largest French speaking city in the world, Montreal (3.8 million people). Other major cities located in proximity to the St. Lawrence river,which links Quebec and Montreal to the Atlantic Ocean, include Hull-Gatineau (314,000), Trois-Rivieres (152,000), Sherbrooke (202,000), and Chicoutimi-Jonquiere (158,000). Since the end of World War II, more than 700,000 immigrants from over 80 countries have moved to Québec, particularly to the multicultural city of Montreal.
The average gross earnings for a family in Quebec is approximately $70,480 per year, just below Canadian average. The province boasts an excellent standard of living, however, thanks to its affordable cost of living. The cost of living in Quebec is lower than the Canadian average, particularly when it comes to housing. Montreal is among the most affordable major cities in North America.
While Quebec has among the highest provincial personal income tax rates at over 24%, these taxes translate into publicly provided services that contribute to high standards of living in the province. Publicly provided healthcare and heavily subsidized transportation, post-secondary education and cultural services ensure that all Quebeckers have access to these important contributors to a high standard of living. The federal tax rate is abated in Quebec, and the minimum wage is at $10.15/hr.
Quebec is home to one of the most affordable and comprehensive educational systems in North America. According to Canadian law, all Canadian citizens under the age of 20 are entitled to an education through the end of secondary school at no direct cost to the user. Quebec has publicly funded elementary and secondary schools in both French and English as the language of instruction. Under Quebec’s Charter of the French Language however, students must attend French-language schools unless they, their parents, or their siblings have previously attended English language schools. This regulation is part of an effort to preserve the French language in Quebec within a mostly English-speaking country. All French-language schools offer English as a second language beginning in Grade 1. This regulation does not apply to private schools in Quebec. The province has the highest rate of private school attendance of any Canadian province.
Quebec has a public school system that is unique within Canada. While most Canadian provinces offer publicly funded schools through to the end of Grade 12, Quebec’s secondary school students receive their diplomas after Grade 11. After completing secondary school, Quebec students may attend free pre-university or vocational programs through the province’s CEGEP (Collège d’Enseignement Général et Professionnel) system. These schools offer, with free tuition, either two-year pre-university programs or three-year vocational programs for diplomas. Quebec chose this structure for their educational system in order to ensure that at least some amount of post-secondary education is universally accessible.
The system of universities in Quebec includes a network of institutions that offer world-class education in both official languages. Montreal is home to four sizable universities, giving it the highest percentage of university students in its population of any major North American city except Boston. Most notably, McGill University and L’Université de Montreal are well renowned around the world for their scholarship and research, producing numerous Nobel prize winners. In addition, Concordia University and Bishop’s University, as well as L’école des Hautes Etudes Commerciales and L’Université de Laval, offer competitive and well-respected educational programs. The average yearly tuition paid by Quebec students is the lowest in Canada, and the province offers a number of generous student aid programs.
Under Canadian Law, all provinces and territories must provide universal, publicly funded health care to all citizens and legal residents of Canada. In other words, most basic health services in Canada are offered at no direct cost to the patient. Certain procedures that are not deemed necessary (such as elective cosmetic surgery and a number of dental care procedures, for example) are generally not covered, but the list of services paid for publicly varies from province to province.
Healthcare in Quebec is universally available to all residents at no cost to the individual. The Quebec Health Care plan covers the full cost of all necessary medical services for all citizens and most permanent residents in Quebec. This coverage includes doctor examinations, medical testing, emergency care, hospital care and emergency dental care.