The three most and least expensive major cities in Canada by cost of basic needs heading into 2024

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: January 7, 2024

According to Market Basket Measure (MBM) data released by Statistics Canada in late November, the cost of basic needs among all assessed major cities across Canada is highest in Calgary (Alberta) and lowest in Montreal (Quebec).

As defined* by Statistics Canada (StatsCan), MBM data “is based on the cost of a specific basket of goods and services representing a modest, basic standard of living for a reference family.”

For the provinces, Yukon and the Northwest Territories, the MBM reference family consists of “two adults with two children. [However], for Nunavut, the MBM reference family consists of two adults with three children.”

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Please note that while the StatsCan data, published based on 2022 figures, also includes MBM data for regions in each province based on specific population thresholds – “under 30,000” or “30,000 to 99,999” – this article will only focus on major provincial cities identified by name within the dataset.

Where is the cost of basic needs the highest across Canada?

According to this measure, basic needs cost the most in:

Calgary, Alberta: The total MBM threshold in this city is $55,771*

Vancouver, British Columbia: The total MBM threshold in this city is $55,727

Toronto, Ontario: The total MBM threshold in this city is $55,262

*According to a CTV News story from last month, Calgary’s MBM has risen by almost $4,000 from the year prior

Where is the cost of basic needs the lowest across Canada?

According to this measure, basic needs cost the least in:

Montreal, Quebec: The total MBM threshold in this city is $46,027

Brandon, Manitoba: The total MBM threshold in this city is $46,779

Saint John, New Brunswick: The total MBM threshold in this city is $48,468

The cost of basic needs in other major cities across Canada

The following will continue to outline the cost of basic needs in Canada, focusing specifically on one major city in each province and territory not already covered in the article thus far.

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador: $50,931

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island: $51,033

Regina, Saskatchewan: $51,101

Halifax, Nova Scotia: $52,439

Whitehorse, Yukon: $59,124

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories: $66,991

Iqaluit, Nunavut: $118,787

The cost of living in Canada

Another report from November 2023 by rentals.ca showcases that many of the same cities appear in a corresponding position with respect to where rental housing is most costly across the country.

Rental housing is a key consideration for many recent immigrants to Canada, as well as newcomers generally, making this a top priority for many of this country’s newest inhabitants.

According to the Rent Report, Vancouver is Canada’s most expensive city to rent both a one-bedroom ($2,872) and two-bedroom ($3,777) apartment.

Toronto was given the title of Canada’s third most expensive city for property rentals, with a one-bedroom costing an average of $2,607 while a two-bedroom was $3,424.

On the less expensive side, one city (Winnipeg) in the same province as Canada’s second-least expensive city for basic needs (Brandon, Manitoba) appeared in the top five cheapest cities to rent a one or two-bedroom apartment. According to the November Rent Report, rent for a one-bedroom residence in Winnipeg was $1,282 while rent for a two-bedroom was $1,692.

Read more about the most and least expensive cities for renters in Canada here.

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