Oshawa is home to General Motors Canada and has used the automotive industry to build its economy and reputation as Canada’s Motor
Although the strength and importance of the vehicle manufacturing business has waned in recent years, Oshawa is still a blue-collar town that continues to grow.
If you think you would like to be part of “the Shwa,” you'll need to learn the relevant details about the city before making any life-changing decisions.
Oshawa has all four distinct seasons during the year, with warm summers, cold winters, and temperate springs and falls. Summers typically have average temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius, while winters are around -3.
The city gets a fair amount of precipitation all year, but January is particularly snowy. About 36 of the year’s 106 millimetres of snowfall comes during that one month.
Oshawa is located on the shore of Lake Ontario, so it experiences typical lake effect weather, like slightly milder temperatures, increased wind and frequent precipitation.
Oshawa is an industrial city with a mix of urban neighbourhoods and more rural residential sections. The intersection of Simcoe Street and Kingston Road creates the urban “Four Corners” neighbourhood in the heart of the city.
Current residents advise new arrivals to try to stick to the more residential northern neighbourhoods, as opposed to the more cramped, industrial southern parts of the city. The trade-off is the real estate prices. Housing in Southern Oshawa is much less expensive than in the north, which has a growing population of affluent workers who commute to Toronto.
Registering Your Car in Oshawa
If you are moving to Oshawa from outside of the province, you need to register your car by Southern Ontario regulations. You will usually need:
- Your car’s title or proof of ownership
- A specified amount of insurance
- Your vehicle to pass inspection/emissions tests
Oshawa’s shoreline location in the eastern portion of the Greater Toronto Area makes it an important transportation hub. Highways and railways directly connect Oshawa to Canada’s biggest city and the rest of the country. Go Transit, Via Rail, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways all transport cargo and passengers within, in and out of the city by train. Oshawa even gets nautical traffic since the Port of Oshawa is a key shipping location for the automotive and steel industries.
Oshawa has a regional airport in town, but the nearest international airport is all the way on the other side of Toronto in Mississauga’s Toronto Pearson International Airport-- a 75 kilometre drive.
If you need to commute within the city, Durham Region Transport bus service and Via Rail commuter train service will provide you with public transportation options.
An alternative to commuter rail and bus service is biking. Oshawa has several bike paths available to residents who want their commute to be environmentally friendly.
Like most Canadian cities, Oshawa has four separate elementary/secondary public school districts.
Durham District School Board: The secular English-speaking district has the largest enrollment.
Durham Catholic District School Board: The English speaking Catholic district has 14 elementary schools and two secondary schools.
Conseil scolaire Viamonde: The French language secular district only operates one elementary school
Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud: The French Catholic district runs one elementary school.
Oshawa also has a handful of private schools and colleges including Durham Elementary School and Kingsway College.
Trent University has provided post-secondary education in Oshawa for over 35 years. It has become an essential part of the city’s culture. The University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Durham College are also located in the city and even share some facilities. All these institutions offer many technical and mechanical courses, furthering the city’s automotive proficiency.
Oshawa proudly proclaims itself the automotive capital of Canada, so it’s no surprise that General Motors Canada has historically been the city’s leading employer. The company has its administrative headquarters in the city, but also employs thousands in its manufacturing facilities.
The recent automotive industry crash in the US did affect Oshawa, but not to the extent that it did Detroit. General Motors Canada may not be as essential to the city’s economy as it once was, but it still remains its biggest employer and Oshawa’s most identifiable company.
As for other jobs in Oshawa, the city’s universities and trade schools provide a substantial part of the city’s economy. Oshawa also supports an industrial shipping industry in the Port of Oshawa that focuses on steel, road salt, fertilizer and auto parts.
Oshawa has a strong union presence, so it has some of the highest paid trade and factory workers in the country.
Oshawa’s Cost of Living
Oshawa’s cost of living is low, especially when compared to nearby Toronto. Many residents commute to work in Toronto while living in Oshawa because of the substantially lower prices. According to Numbeo, Toronto’s housing is 40 percent more expensive than Oshawa’s. Utilities, transportation and gas are all a bit more affordable in Oshawa, as well.
Oshawa Culture and Contemporary Life
Oshawa prides itself as a hard working city, but it also has several interesting and entertaining recreational activities.
Keeping with the city’s theme of vehicular pride, the Canadian Automotive Museum is one of Oshawa’s top attractions. It was actually built up from an old car dealership!
Oshawa’s Robert McLaughlin Art Gallery is the biggest public art gallery in region. It also plays host to a variety of art shows and events throughout the year.
Parkwood Estate is one of Oshawa’s most interesting Heritage Sites. The former home of General Motors Canada’s founder, this mansion is now a museum, and much of its original design and contents remain intact from the 1920s. The exterior has been featured in several films including Billy Madison and X-Men.
Oshawa also hosts several interesting festivals. If you want to experience a genuine “only in Canada” event, you’ll enjoy Oshawa’s Maple Syrup Festival. The Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority runs this late-winter event--a celebration of everything involving maple trees and syrup. Yes, there are pancakes.
For a more multicultural experience, the Oshawa Folk Arts Council presents Oshawa Fiesta Week every June, celebrating European, Asian and Caribbean cultures. The main event is the parade, but there is also food and other activities.
Oshawa also has several parks and conservation sites for nature lovers to enjoy. Lakeview Park is perhaps the most notable in the city, since it covers the coast of Lake Ontario and includes a beach. You could also take a hike through McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve to see more vegetation.
Oshawa Moving Resources
Are you ready to move to Canada’s Motor City? Topmoving.ca has a database of Oshawa moving companies to help you get your belongings into and out of the city. Be sure to get at least three quotes for every service you need so you can find a fair price.
Oshawa Relocation Tips
- If you are flying to Oshawa, prepare for a drive. The nearest international airport is 75 kilometres away.
- Avoid walking around the southern industrial area at night--it is the city’s highest crime zone.
- If you work in Toronto, you can live in Oshawa and commute to work with low housing costs.
- Bring clothing and vehicles that can cope with the city’s snowy winters.