Cost of Living in Canada

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The cost of living in Canada is high, but when compared to other parts of the world, such as Western Europe, it is relatively cheaper. 
Canadian dollar representing the Cost of Living in CanadaThere are significant differences in the cost of living in Canada between rural areas and major cities such as Toronto or Vancouver, which can be very expensive. Mercer´s 2012 Cost of Living report, which measures the comparative cost of items in each city (including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment) has ranked Toronto as the world´s 61st most expensive city, followed by Vancouver (63rd), Montreal (87th) and Calgary (92nd). Still, expats will find that these cities are very liveable and that Canada provides universal health insurance, free education to reputed public schools, decent job opportunities, and low crime rates. has ranked Canada 82nd in overall cost of living in the world.
Canada is becoming more expensive as the Canadian dollar strengthens, but the average salary in Canada has increased by 15 to 17 percent since 2007. In 2012, the average hourly wage for a male worker was 25.42 CAD, and 21.85 CAD for female workers. Part-time employees in Canada earned an average of 16.59 CAD.

There are differences in incomes between cities, provinces, and of course, sectors. The highest paid sectors in Canada are mining and oil/gas drilling and work in the utilities - water, electricity, and telecommunications. On the other hand, expats working in the accommodation and food services, arts, entertainment and recreation sectors tend to have lower salaries.

Expats living in Canada should expect to spend about 35 to 50 percent of their income on housing and utilities, including rent (or a mortgage), heating, electricity, phone and water. Under Canadian law, if owning a car, it must be insured and registered with the provincial government, which is quite expensive. Moreover, expats in Canada spend approximately 15 percent of their income on food (which can significantly increase if eating in restaurants) and about six percent on clothes.
Expats moving to Canada have to cope with severe Canadian winters. The coastal region of British Columbia is a bit warmer, but the temperature in the interior provinces can hit -40 or even -50 degrees Celsius. This severe cold is accompanied by piles of snow, which can cover the ground for about six months of the year in some parts of Canada. This means more power is needed to heat one's house.

Cost of accommodation in Canada

Rent costs in Canada vary across different cities and regions. The highest rents are in large cities like Vancouver and Toronto. Expats renting an apartment outside the city can expect to pay lower rents. For example, a small apartment in one of the bigger cities ranges from 800 CAD to 1,400 CAD, whereas a similar sized apartment located outside the city centre will cost from 650 CAD to 1,000 CAD. Rent for a three-bedroom apartment in a major Canadian city ranges between 1,200 CAD and 2,200 CAD, depending on the city. However, expats living in a similar sized apartment outside these cities pay about 1,000 CAD  to 1,600 CAD.

Here are examples of average rent costs in some of Canada´s largest cities according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation:
  • One-bedroom apartment in Toronto: 1,007 CAD
  • One-bedroom apartment in Vancouver: 982 CAD
  • One-bedroom apartment in Ottawa: 916 CAD
  • One-bedroom apartment in Montreal: 539 CAD
  • One-bedroom apartment in Edmonton: 882 CAD
  • One-bedroom apartment in Calgary: 958 CAD
  • Three-bedroom apartment in Toronto: 1,413 CAD
  • Three-bedroom apartment in Vancouver: 1,480 CAD
  • Three-bedroom apartment in Ottawa: 1,377 CAD
  • Three-bedroom apartment in Montreal: 875 CAD
  • Three-bedroom apartment in Edmonton: 1,216 CAD
  • Three-bedroom apartment in Calgary: 1,096 CAD

Cost of food and other essentials in Canada

Food and drinks in Canada are priced fairly but cannot be considered cheap, even though they're generally cheaper than in Western European countries. Food is a bit more pricey compared to the United States. However, food prices in Canada have been increasing over the last few years and are expected to rise between 1.5 and 3.5 percent in 2013. The Food Price Index, an annual report from the University of Guelph, forecast that prices of beef and pork will go up by 4.5 and 6.5 percent, while the cost of eggs will increase between 3.5 and 5 percent, the price of grain will rise 1.4 to 2.7 percent, and the price of vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, and seafood should rise between 1 and 3 percent.
Canadians eat a lot of beef and chicken, and a bit less pork and lamb, which is less available and more pricey. However, it's easy to get other specialty meat such as bison, especially in larger cities. Fresh fruits and vegetables are available throughout the year for prices that are generally a little cheaper than in Western Europe. Canadian bread is of good quality and taste, but a bit more expensive. Expats will pay approximately 2.80 CAD for a loaf of bread. In addition, Canadians drink a lot of soft drinks, called “pop" and “soda," which are usually cheap when bought in large packs.
Alcohol and cigarettes are expensive in Canada, as they are heavily taxed. Canada has numerous large breweries and wineries, and their beer and wine are popular among locals as well as expats.
Clothes and accessories from branded shops are usually expensive but clothing has become more affordable due to the growth of Chinese-imported products, wholesales, factory outlets, and heavy competition between stores. People in Canada tend to dress casually.

Cost of transportation in Canada

Canada dollar - cost of living in CanadaCanada has a transportation system that includes more than 1.4 million km of roads, 10 major international airports, 300 smaller airports, 72,093km of functioning railway tracks, and more than 300 commercial ports and harbours providing access to the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans, as well as the Great Lakes and the St Lawrence Seaway.

Public transportation in Canada is quite expensive, but the major Canadian cities are definitely less expensive than other important world cities. On average, a one-way local transit ticket in Canadian cities costs 2.80 CAD, and a monthly pass costs about 84 CAD.
A 2009 study released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compared spending on basic household items in the US, Canada, Japan and the UK, has found that Canadians spend almost 19.9 percent of their total household expenditures on transportation. This might be due to the cold climate, less dense population, and people who travel long distances to work. The consumer price index for transportation has increased by 1.5 percent from 119.9 in 2011 to 121.7 in 2012. One litre of gasoline in Canada costs approximately 1.40 CAD, and 1km by taxi costs about 1.75 CAD.

Cost of schooling and education in Canada

Canada is well known for having an abundance of high-quality and affordable schools that attract many international students. Expats with young children appreciate that Canada provides free public education to all Canadian citizens and permanent residents from kindergarten until they complete secondary school, which is usually at the age of 18.

Each province administers its own education system, so policies and requirements differ from province to province. Expats who don´t have a permanent resident card or a work permit have to apply for a study permit for their children, who would afterwards be classified as international students and would have to pay tuition, which is nearly as high as at private schools.
There are approximately 90 universities and about 150 colleges in Canada, most of which are public institutions, operated and funded by the provincial governments. A university in Canada refers to a four-year-degree–granting post-secondary institution, while college is a two-year post-secondary school, similar to a US junior or community college. University tuition fees in Canada are relatively inexpensive. International students pay an average of 13,200 CAD for their annual tuition.

Cost of healthcare in Canada

All Canadian citizens and permanent residents are eligible for health insurance in Canada. The country´s healthcare system is made up of provincial and territorial health insurance plans that are funded through taxes and administered by the provinces and territories themselves.

Expats should apply for a public health insurance card from their provincial or territorial governments as soon as possible. The application form can be found at a doctor´s office, hospital, pharmacy or online. After applying for public health insurance, expats may have to wait before they become eligible to use it. These periods can be covered by temporary private health insurance. The officially recommended period for which expats should purchase temporary coverage is three months.
Those who would like services that are not covered under their province or territory´s health insurance plan can buy private health insurance which usually includes prescription drugs, dental costs, private hospital rooms, ambulance services, and prescription glasses.

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