Cost of Living in Canada

by Jose Marc Castro on August 10, 2009

costoflivingCANADACanada is one of the richest countries in the world. The per capita income is remarkably high and it is a distinguished member of the Group of Eight (G8) as well as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The economy is basically a free market and the government tends to apply statutes and policies less strict compared to the United Kingdom.

The per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is higher compared to other European countries. Comparatively, here are the prices in a nutshell,

  • The cost of living in Toronto is 30 percent lower than in London, UK.
  • The cost of living in Vancouver is 12 percent lower than in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
  • The cost of living in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, is 5 percent lower than in Glasgow, UK.

At present, economists are worried about the declining unemployment rate although production and living standards are still considerably high.

Cost of living expenses in rural areas can be significantly low. However, living in major cities like Toronto and Vancouver can be very expensive. Canada’s mining, oiling and logging industries comprise the bulk of its financial support that keeps foreign debt almost nonexistent.

Migrating in Canada will cost much less for those who come from big urban cities in United Kingdom. Space and living conditions in Canada are excellent although getting private land will still be expensive. Only 12% of the land is inhabited and almost 18% of the overall population is comprised of immigrants from Europe and Asia.

As shared in Canada Expat Forum last August 23, 2009:

Apart from all of that we still love it, the kids love it, in our area there are clean small play parks, none are vandalised!! with slides, climbing frame etc, my husbands journey home is 20 minutes (was 60-90) and at a max 80kph (50 mph!). We are struggling until I can work as a nurse, but hopefully it will all work out, if you want more let me know

Food and Drink Costs in Canada

The Canadian food processing industry (NAICS 311) is one of the third largest companies and its biggest food industry. 3.7% of per capita GDP is attributed to the food processing industry and together with farming and agriculture makes up 6.3% of the country’s total GDP. Meat processing remains as the biggest financial source in the food industry.

Some of the products that Canada is known for are sausages, hotdogs, hamburgers and canned goods like meatloaf and corned beef. The farming industry has also helped a lot in contributing sales of frozen or canned vegetables and fruits like olives, pickles, corn, cherries and licorice.

As for drinks, Canada has a number of large breweries and wineries. Canadian beer and wine are popular among local residents and Americans. Some examples of well-exported beer products are from Quebec and Montreal. Food and drinks in Canada are priced fairly but not altogether cheap.

There are also baked goods and pastries available but these are also quite expensive especially in the big cities. Some people are able to acquire very affordable products like rice, corn, fruits and vegetables from farmers’ markets. An average family of four spends around 300 to 400 euro every month for food and drinks.

There has been a bit of a worry though in light of the current financial downturn worldwide. A looming price war in the food business is welcome news for cash-strapped consumers. Grocers, on the other hand, may face some challenging times down the road, and shareholders seem to agree. In the long run, it would provide most benefit to buyers all throughout Canada.

Clothing and Accessories Costs in Canada

Canada invests a lot in the fashion industry so modernized street fashion can be seen everywhere. Buying clothes and accessories in branded shops is going to be expensive. There are also runway shows, fashion magazine debuts and designer premieres that showcase the latest trends. Canadians know how to dress for the occasion but most of the locals tend to dress casually. In almost all the major cities, people are more fashionable and usually wear private label clothing, jewelry and footwear.

There are however, affordable clothing due to the growth of Chinese imported products. Locally made items have decreased by almost 7% due to the heavy competition brought about by wares that can be bought in bulk and wholesale. Other convenience and factory outlets also released several cheap accessories spurring Canadians to continue shopping and spending as despite the current recession as spending statistics show comparing the fiscal years of 2008 and 2009. Clothes have also gotten larger in size since the obese and overweight population was foreseen to have increased drastically.

Housing Costs in Canada

Canada’s construction sector has constantly grown over the past five years. In smaller states like Ottawa and Alberta, mortgage rates have also increased which boosted the consumer price index (CPI). The national average is now at all time high. Inflation levels have been very promising since more immigrants are coming in giving an estimated 3% rise every year.

The increase prices of real estate have not dampened the homeownership zeal of Canadians. Canadians need to provide initial deposits with concurrent costs that could last as long as a lifetime. On the positive side, most citizens have an average of over 13% disposable income.

Living in big cities like Vancouver, Toronto and Ontario is expensive but the rising rates of mortgages in other fast-growing urban states only make a slight difference. Laws and regulations on homebuilding, lot ownership and rental differ between cities. The Canadian government does well by monitoring landlords not to overcharge for apartment and condominium rentals. On the average, about 40% of the normal working individual’s income goes to housing costs which includes utilities and gas and experts predictions of an upsurge in this market in the near future.

Services Costs in Canada

The Canadian government is very generous in giving social assistance to all citizens. There are benefits that help support payment for commodities, food, house repairs, medications, health care car repair and fuel as well as on education. Scholarship grants are available from several public and private institutions. Workers also receive insurance and benefits during medical and financial situations. Some older individuals who did not finish their college degrees are also given the opportunity to study for free.

One of the model health care programs has been Canada’s very own as various levels of government pay for 71% of the health care costs, much of it is publicly funded in the Canada Health Act.

Canada also has equalization rights wherein the government provides income redistribution for those earning less than what is required for the whole family to cope and survive comfortably. Taxation rates can be adjusted by the government provided that citizens request and provide sufficient evidence of low affordability status. Canada is one of the leading nations in the world when it comes to social groups and programs. This sentiment is shared on Canada Expat Forum last June 4,2009:

A quick search yields multiple answers, depending on what you are considering.

Per wiki:

  1. Norway
  2. Sweden
  3. Canada
  4. Belgium
  5. Australia
  6. United States
  7. Iceland
  8. Netherlands
  9. Japan
  10. Finland

However, the current world economy has caused major impacts to living conditions in the listed countries.

Employment Costs in Canada

Currently, unemployment rates in Canada are increasing and it has reached 4%, the highest in decades.

Since most Canadian-born citizens are moving to the United States to find higher paying jobs, skilled workers are in demand. The areas that need more hands are in the fields of engineering, construction, education and health care.

Overall, most cities are still doing quite well. Newfoundland and Labrador have high unemployment rates reaching 15% while other provinces almost have flawless records.

The service and trade industries are still the national providers of financial support. This ably supports a wide tax base at a rate of 30% for income earners and VAT at nearly 4%. Canada is the biggest producer of uranium in the world along with other minerals like gold and nickel. Agricultural products like wheat have also been on the rise in the past years.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

raj November 15, 2011 at 4:35 pm

hi, how is canada, especially toronto for the new comer? standard of living, options for permanent settlement for social work post graduate?
kindly guide.


CYS July 16, 2012 at 3:00 am

I have to say that many simply complain about their experience because of their own circumstances – which can be very subjective.
Naturally, Canada is not cheaper than the US which is a much larger economy, and look at grocery store, 80%+ of produces are Made in USA.

I rank cost of living in Canada as 2nd most affordable in the developed world (with US being the most affordable one). Property cost in Canada has soared, but still below the inflated level seemed in Australia, and still better than Europe and Asia.

Canada has an universal healthcare system but as the result, very high tax in place.

It's hard to draw comparables between Canada and USA, each country has its own system. I strongly suggest you do not draw comparables as it would be confusing.

Work on your total monthly income and expenses. In our circumstance, we can live more comfortable in the US, but Canada offers other elements. In terms of customer service, our personal experience is US has best customer service, much more polite than Canadians, but that's just our own experience.

Regardless, our life had improved a lot since we moved here from Australia, and can't really complain as our lifestyle is improving every year.


Emma September 6, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Canada is expensive compared to most cities in the US, but not as expensive say NYC or San Francisco. However, while min. wage is higher in Canada, mid-income / high-income jobs are scarce in Canada compared to the US. Many households only have household income around $60,000 to $80,000 in affulent areas, as opposed to $100,000 in the US.

That's just my observation – tax is very high here which is how they fund healthcare.

On dollar-per-dollar basis: considering all the expenses, income tax..etc. I find cost of living in Canada around 35% to 45% higher than US. This does not consider housing cost, as each city is different.

The big difference is in gas price (30% to 40% higher in Canada), produce food (around 30% higher), clothes (30% to 40%), utilities, banking costs, and of course tax.

Interest rate however is lower (variable rate) than US at moment, housing cost is subject to where you live – but Toronto and Vancouver are expensive in North American standard.

Free healthcare but HST is 13%, that's on top of your income tax..

So make a judgement yourself, many Canadians have moved to the US and have a much better life simply because of savings in cost.

Each weekend, cross-border points are completely packed by Canadians going south, so you know what that means..


meeta September 30, 2012 at 10:54 am

i along with my two children would like to migrate to canada how can we .are there any sikh philanthrophist, who can help meeta


Michael Davidson November 9, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Hi I emigrated to Canada with my mother in 1965 it was easy to get ahead then. My canadian born daughter went to be an exchange
student in Edinburgh & lived in a family apt there. That was in 1996. She married well in Scotland & works for Audit Scotland & got
6 weeks vacation after 3 years ??? My Canadian born wife insisted we move to Scot;land to keep the family together. I got early
retirement from Ont. Hydro & we left. I was in Canada 31 years & did have some trouble adjusting to life in Scotland. However living
standards in Scotland have almost caught up to Canada in fact if you comp[are Aberdeen to say Hamilton ont (about the same size)
Aberdeen beets hands down & although unemployment is 7.2 % at the moment in Aberdeen its less than 2.5% They are the best housed city in the UK. I visit Canada every year & love Canada but it is getting difficult to get up the ladder in Canada now.


Alyssa November 11, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Been here for 2 years now, I had seen the pros & cons about Canada. It all depends on your personal goals:

Cost of living is high in Canada compared to US, but lower than Asia, Australia, Europe.

Weather is very harsh during winter times apart from Vancouver, but Vancouver is the most expensive city to live and yet their salary is actually one of the lowest.

Tax is extremely high both for income and sales also hidden taxes.

Too many immigrants come here and just take benefits – which is costing the Government a huge burden, many families have relocated their entire 3 generations (both ways), with a family cramped with 3 generations. In these families, 5 of 6 people are not working and getting benefits (grand parents, 2 kids and wife), you can just imagine the healthcare and social care burden – which result in endless hikes in tax.

There are very few good jobs in Canada, good jobs are hired by local Canadian headquarters, but U.S. headquarters are not found in Canada as they can service Canadian market from U.S. – lack of Europea or Asian conglomerates here.

Most people just want to work for Government for "life", personally, I don't like that kind of mentality as I set up my own business, and many of like minded people have also expressed the same concern. We will be moving to the U.S. next year as it is much easier to set up and run business in the U.S. – from financing, marketing, consumers, market size and other aspects.

Canada has lost many good talents continuously, and this will be a major issue, they say Canada has "Dutch Disease", and heavily dependent on natural resources, which I tend to agree.


danny November 23, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I was very excited to move to Canada 2 years ago, I thought this would be similar to USA where there are lots of opportunities. 2 years gone, it was a real a disappointment, we had no problem with English as we are from Australia, our education & qualification are also recognized.

Yet – there are so few jobs, and so hard to do any business. In the end, we decided to start our own business, and 95% of our business is with US, so we might as well move to the US.

We are in finance and technology, and frankly, there are just too few Canadian HQs as American HQs don't need to come to Canada.

Customer service is bad in Canada compared to US, but still better than OZ. To us, this is a "slightly cheaper, and colder Australia", but it's much more conservative than Australia.

We are moving to the USA next year because of lack of business opp. here in Canada, and education system is much better in US for our kids – as we can afford to live in very good area for just around $300,000 to purchase a house in US.

Canadians: they are polite but they are not friendly. They always back-stab Americans, yet, every weekend, you see thousands of Canadians heading south for shopping, and making huge mess and can be really rude and ill mannered while in the US. Refilling every cup of coffee before they leave, throwing shoe boxes around, some American customer service officers mentioned "We know the diff. between Canadian and American customers from their manner".

I don't know, quite a few immigrants have similar experience as us – if they are back stabbing Americans, are they also back stabbing us while pretending they are friendly?

I was actually very surprised by how warm and friendly Americans are – we've been there 10 times last year, Americans always go all their way to help you out. "Let me see what I can save for you", "Let me see if we can do free shipping for Canada", "Let me take you there so you won't be lost" – I don't see any of that in Canada.


James November 28, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Depending where you are from – coming from Asia, Europe or Australia – the cost is reasonable here.
Coming from US – then the cost of living in Canada is way more expensive.

Many are arguing about healthcare, salary..blah blah…the salary is not higher in Canada, unless you are at the bottom end (min. wages). Salary for white-collar is better in the US, so it's the tax rate.

Healthcare is not free – you pay high tax, both income tax and sales tax and lots of more taxes like import duty..etc.

It's up to individuals, one thing I don't appreciate is how many immigrants are talking about getting benefits here, it seems that's the only reason they come here. How can you judge a country based on what kind of benefits you can get, I am an immigrant myself, and I hate this attitude.

It's also a very old society with very small number of young people, there are so many 80+ grandparents here – personally, I feel that the high cost of living prohibits opportunities for young people to excel, but that's my opinion.


Yasmin December 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm

I am quite disappointed after been here for almost 3 years. It is a mirage (employment industry), majority of people are under employed, it is scary to see so many doctors and engineers driving taxis and delivering pizzas.

Last week, I was on my way to Florida, and reinforced this situation – I had 2 drivers, both Indian professionals who previously lived in the U.S. – they thought life would be better up here and moved here – they said life in NYC and LA was actually better for them – one used to run a telecom shop in NYC, the other was an IT engineer in California and thought Canada would be better for kids.

Now both of them are driving taxi and find it hard to meet with basic needs – because cost of living is much higher here.

Everyone's situation is different, but I found even Australians, British and Americans are also under-employed frequently. More scary is the highly skilled professionals like IT, Software Developers are really under-employed, and if RIM goes bankrupt, it means the end of Canadian IT innovation.

Education quality has been falling drastically due to ongoing strikes and disputes. I had been disappointed by lack of business & job opportunities here – and I am deciding what my next step should be, my kids had actually fallen behind a lot in terms of education since they moved here.


UKTerry February 8, 2013 at 9:05 pm

I am thinking of moving to Canada and getting a job as a long haul truck driver. Can any one tell me if there is stop on hiring from outside Canada,


apex predator March 11, 2013 at 9:19 am

i do appreciate very much the post from all of you one way or the other,each of your post is helpful.the thing i did'nt find was the life for a new comer who has but a high school diplomer from his or her country of origin.i'm an example of this.i inturn moving to canada for a better life.presently i am in moscow,russia where life here is not less compared to living in hell.cost of living from grocery to housing is suicide…extremely high.come to think of it,no jobs to even raise money.its hell please can some one giv me some hints about my future move and about the job(s) i will be doing as wel as the savings per month, so to have peace of mind like every other human.
tanks very much


Ron June 17, 2013 at 4:53 am

If you don't mind hard work and cold weather you will very well in Alberta Canada! Lots of good jobs to be had and relatively low cost living. A lot of Canadians from other province are going there for the same reason. Edmonton, Calgary, Fort Mc Murray, are all good bets.Look into it.


hardikpatel_india May 6, 2013 at 5:23 am

hey… i live in gujarat, india… i have just completed my Bachelor in mechanical engineering… and planning to migrate to CANADA or AUS for my further studies in MASTERs… plz guide me to select a proper country to live in… im planning to settle there

Also plz tell me the job opportunities in both the countries after completing my masters as well as during my master studies

i want to save lots of money and send back it for my family in india


Aussie Skippy July 23, 2013 at 1:44 am

2 1/2 years here, and that's enough for me to decide to move.
I came to Canada with a wrong analysis, it is a tough place to live – weather, economics and rising cost.
I am moving to Texas very soon, I am much happier in the U.S. – I found much more business opportunities in the U.S., and people are much more friendlier and also more kids friendly, needless to mention cost of living is significantly lower in the U.S.

When you mention the cost – Canadians will jump up and down and talk about healthcare. The reality is, just savings on gas is enough to cover the difference. My total healthcare in the U.S. is $350 a month, and it's a pretty good healthcare. The tax I can save simply on personal income and on more than $15,000 already.

If Canada's healthcare is so good, you tell me why most nurses want to move to U.S. for job opportunities?

Anyway, that's me and many like-minded Canadians, but we can't say anything, Canadians are so anti-Americans, I am an Australian, but I want to decide myself which place is the best for me and my family, and Canada is not, neither Australia, so we have decided to move to U.S. where we always feel much happier and see more opportunities.


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