Canada was once renowned for its reasonable cost of living: minimal credit card fees, more affordable health care than the U.S., and budget-friendly housing, especially in Quebec. However, the things are changing. In 2023, when measured against the 50 priciest countries globally, Canada ranks in 25th place — nine spots below its southern neighbour.
Many countries face high inflation, but in Canada, these everyday items are especially costly:
Milk installation in downtown Montreal.
Groceries in Canada have seen a massive price spike over the past few years with dairy products, in particular, seeing a 7% year-over-year cost increase. According to a 2021 study, Quebecers pay the most for milk in the country, shelling out around $2.97/litre. When it comes to the rest of the world, Canada's milk prices rank in the top 10 at $2.83 per litre on average, behind Taiwan ($4.05), Hong Kong ($4.17), Singapore ($4.30) and Jamaica ($4.31).
Cell phone service
Two people stare at a smart phone in Montreal.
Phone service rates push many Canadians' buttons, far exceeding those in most other countries. "During April 2022 the MIN monthly price for a 4G&5G smartphone plan with at least 1000 mins, 10 Mbit/s and 100 gigabytes was 14x more expensive in Canada than in France," according to last year's report by telecom analyst Rewheel. The company found that Canada has one of the highest wireless prices in the world. That's because Canada's "Big Three" providers Telus, Rogers and Bell control over 90% of the national wireless market and can set prices without the fear of competition from other companies.
Paramedics help someone into a Montreal ambulance.
Canada spends among the highest average amount on health care ($8,563/person) compared to other nations with a similar GDP. While the U.S. nearly doubles that amount ($15,275/person), Canada remains above average in terms of per-person spending, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
Someone walks away from a gas station in Montreal.
Data from Global Petrol Prices shows $1.85/litre in Canada in October compared to $1.47/litre in the U.S. Europe is still reigning supreme when it comes to punishing people at the pump with U.K. motorists facing a $2.57/litre average.
Halloween deco outside a Montreal home.
Montreal's housing crisis is worsening. A recent study by the Institut de recherche et d’informations socioéconomiques (IRIS) found the local housing price index rose 314% over two years, jumping higher than some of North America's largest cities, including Los Angeles (+296%), San Francisco (+267%), and New York (+158%). But the crisis isn't just limited to Montreal. On a national scale, Canada is seeing prices and demand spike, while supply diminishes. By the end of 2021, Canadian home prices had increased at least twice as fast as any other G7 country and more than doubled since 2005.
Credit Card Fees
A Montreal payment sign.
Quebecers may be spared the credit card fees being passed onto consumers in other provinces, many of whom saw a surcharge of up to 3% on some purchases (plus tax) late last year. Credit card fees are capped under 1% in most other parts of the world, including EU countries, the U.K., Israel, Australia and China.
A cigarette butt receptacle.
Smokes in Canada are expensive, more so than in just about any other country. The average price for a 20-pack is $14 Canada-wide, with Newfoundland showing the highest rate ($15.92) and Quebec showing the lowest ($11.68). Compared to the rest of the world, Canada is the sixth most expensive for a pack of Marlboros behind Norway ($13.67), the U.K. ($15.60), Ireland ($16.16), New Zealand ($22.74) and Australia ($25.54).
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