Cost of Living

Quality of Life / Cost of Living in Canada

Many foreign nationals are asking questions about the ‘quality of life’ in Canada. When one enquires further, it becomes clear that in many cases a question about ‘quality of life’ actually equates to a question about the ‘cost of living’. In this section we will explain that ‘quality of life’ and ‘cost of living’ are very different concepts that may correlate. …..this is erroneous logic.

Careful analyses show that ‘quality of life’ is affected by many different factors, including the following:

  • Income
  • Taxes
  • Ability to enjoy physical environment through activities (e.g. organized sport and activities like fishing or hiking).
  • Exposure to crime and other types of socially unacceptable behavior
  • Cost of living (and the exchange rate). The question of ‘quality of life’ is therefore complex and requires a detailed answer.

Before discussing some of the concepts of the larger concept of  ‘quality of life’, a comment about the future is highly relevant. Most economic immigrants decide to leave their countries of Citizenship (such as South Africa) as they believe that their future is threatened. Such threats could be criminal, political or economic in nature. Some threats are immediate and very serious.  When some individuals ask questions about ‘quality of life’ in Canada, they tend to forget or deliberately ignore the actual reasons for emigrating (crime, etc)  and only focus on the ‘cost of living’ or how much they can buy with their earnings after arrival.

Ultimately it is important to consider all relevant factors (not just disposable income) before making a personal judgment about ‘quality of life’ in Canada. One of my standard responses to people that has an excessive focus on how much money that will earn after arrival or about their spending power is as follows:

a. A foreign national coming to Canada with a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or a provincial certificate of nomination must be paid the prevailing wage. In the case of an LMIA, Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulation 203 dictates that the prevailing wage must be paid. In the case of a provincial certificate of nomination, payment of the prevailing wage is not legislated, but all provinces follow the same rule about the prevailing wage. Therefore an immigrant that comes to Canada under these two methods must get paid what Canadians get paid in a similar position in the same part of the country. It is suggested that immigrants don’t make too many demands before arrival. After arrival, an immigrant can prove themselves to the Canadian employer and labour market in Canada, and their wage can be adjusted accordingly.

b.  After the Spanish Captain, Cortez and his men landed in Mexico in 1519 he apparently said to his men: “burn the ships”. Whether it is true or not is the issue. The message is: “retreat or giving up is easy when you have an option.” Immigrants should stop having monetary demands before their arrival: “If I earn this or that, then I will be happy and or satisfied”. If a newcomer proves him or herself in the labour market, the market will ensure that an immigrant will be paid what they are worth.


Salaries are high for many different types of journeyman (artisans). In most cases we have seen up to a 3-fold increase in wages when South African journeyman or doctors move from South Africa to Canada.

It was reported on the website that as of December 2014, the average wage for Canadian employees was $943 a week – or just over $49,000 a year. This marks a 2% increase over the same period in 2013.

Average Canadian salary by province:

  • Alberta $ 59,384
  • New Foundland and Labrador $ 53,820
  • Saskatchewan $ 52,728
  • Ontario $ 52,260
  • British Columbia $ 49,244
  • Manitoba $ 47,632
  • Quebec $ 47,320
  • New Brunswick $ 46,644
  • Nova Scotia $ 45,292
  • Prince Edward Island $ 42,380

How to Compare Prices

If a loaf of bread costs C$2.78 in Canada (Oct 2015) some would say that is about R27,80 (based on an exchange rate of R10= C$1) and quickly think how expensive life in Canada must be, as a loaf of bread in South Africa might only be half that price.

This type of calculation is erroneous because many occupations earn double or three times more in Canada when compared to South Africa. The cost of a loaf of bread should be compared against the salary earned by an individual, tax paid and other expenses (e.g. education). The cost of a specific item should be considered in the context of an individual’s total budget and spending power.

When one reviews the cost of living in any country it is important to understand how the decimal system operates. In 30 countries of the world the decimal mark is a comma, but in English speaking Canada it is period/full stop.  Therefore in South Africa the custom is to write R10,99 but in English speaking Canada the custom is to write $5.99. It is also interesting to note that in French speaking Canada the comma is used (similar to South Africa). After arrival immigrants should follow the local Canadian custom. More can be read about this topic at:

Taxes (on 15 October 2015)

Federal taxes on annual income of individuals are calculated as follows:

  • 15% on the first $44,701 of taxable income +
  • 22% on the next $44,700 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income over $44,701 up to $89,401) +
  • 26% on the next $49,185 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income over $89,401 up to $138,586) +
  • 29% of taxable income over $138,586

Provincial Taxes on Annual Income Are As Follows:

Provinces / Territories Rate(s)
Alberta 10% of taxable income
British Columbia 5.06% on the first $37,869 of taxable income +
7.7% on the next $37,871 +
10.5% on the next $11,218 +
12.29% on the next $18,634 +
14.7% on the next $45,458 +
16.8% on the amount over $151,050
Manitoba 10.8% on the first $31,000 of taxable income +
12.75% on the next $36,000 +
17.4% on the amount over $67,000
Newfoundland and Labrador 7.7%
on the first $35,008 of taxable income +
on the next $35,007 +
13.3% on the amount over $70,015
New Brunswick 9.68% on the first $39,973 of taxable income +
14.82% on the next $39,973 +
16.52% on the next $50,029 +
17.84% on the amount over $129,975
Northwest Territories 5.9% on the first $40,484 of taxable income+
8.6% on the next $40,487 +
12.2% on the next $50,670 +
14.05% on the amount over $131,641
Nova Scotia 8.79% on the first $29,590 of taxable income +
14.95% on the next $29,590 +
16.67% on the next $33,820 +
17.5% on the next $57,000 +
21% on the amount over $150,000
Nunavut 4% on the first
$42,622 of taxable income +
7% on the next
$42,621 +
9% on the next
$53,343 +
11.5% on the amount over $138,586
Prince Edward Island 9.8%
on the first $31,984 of taxable income +
on the next $31,985 +
16.7% on the amount over $63,969
Ontario 5.05% on the first $40,922 of taxable income +
9.15% on the next $40,925 +
11.16% on the next $68,153 +
12.16% on the next $70,000 +
13.16 % on the amount over $220,000
Saskatchewan 11% on the first
$44,028 of taxable income +
13% on the next
$81,767 +
15% on the amount over $125,795
Yukon 7.04% on the first $44,701 of taxable income +
9.68% on the next $44,700 +
11.44% on the next $49,185 +
12.76% on the amount
over $138,586

The combination of these tax rates are obviously high, but taxpayers do get value for money through free provincial medical services, good schools and effective police services – just to name a few.

Many citizens of countries such as South Africa pay thousands of Rand for private medical insurance, private schools and private armed response/security guards because the government cannot provide these services to the taxpayers.  Therefore, little value is received for taxes paid to the central government (in my view).

General Sales Tax

All provinces have General Sales tax of 5 % on all goods and services.

Some supplies of goods and services are taxable at the rate of 0% (zero-rated). GST is charged at a rate of 0% on these supplies. Some common examples of zero-rated supplies of property and services are:

  • basic groceries such as milk, bread, and vegetables;
  • agricultural products such as grain and raw wool;
  • prescription drugs and drug-dispensing fees; and
  • medical devices such as hearing aids and artificial teeth.

Provincial Sales Tax

Most provinces have about a 7-8 % tax rate on goods and services. Alberta does not have any Provincial Sales Tax.

Cost of Automobiles.

New vehicles in Canada are very cheap compared to many countries in the Third or Developing World.  A Chrysler Caravan (8-seater mini-van) is selling without tax for about C$19 000, or roughly R190 000, whilst the same car costs R350 0000 in South Africa.

At the moment (Oct 2015) a double cab GMC pick up truck with a 5 litre V8 engine can be purchased for about $29 000 at zero interest over 7 years. This is the so-called ‘work truck’ edition, which is the basic truck without a camera in the rear bumper, etc.

If a loan is made one should also assess the price of financing a car and compare a foreign country against Canada. Second hand cars are even cheaper, go to  to review the prices of second hand cars.

Cost of Medical Services & Schools

Medical services are free and of a very high standard.  Most employers provide medical insurance for medicine, dental and ophthalmic services.  Schools are completely free and of a very high first world standard.

Cost of Post Secondary Education

Post high school education is expensive, but children will be able to find a job on completion of their studies. By the way: children can go to school, college or university without fear of being attacked. My daughter often took the train ‘downtown’ to Toronto and back with her friends or individually.  There is a scheme in Ontario called Ontario Student Assistance Program (see, which helps students (and their parents) with money for college or university, with a very low interest rate payable only 6 months after the student graduates and commences to work.  Most banks also give student loans for further studies, also at very low interest rates.

Cost of Public Transport

Public transport is very effective. City and inter-city bus and train systems are safe and clean. This is another benefit you receive for paying taxes.

In Calgary a C-train ticket costs $3.15 ( and a monthly pass costs $99.

In Toronto a TTC ticket (underground train) costs $2.80 and $1.95 for a student ( A monthly ticket costs $40.

In my view, public transport in Canada provides a great service while being affordable, safe, and convenient.

Cost of Electronics and Communication

In Canada electronic goods are extremely cheap. High Speed/Broadband DSL internet access costs approximately CAD$40 or R400 per month.  Local phone calls are free and many providers are making all national calls free within Canada.

Cost of Heating

Heating costs are higher in Canada than many third world or developing countries (which are usually in warmer climates).

Cost of Alcohol & Tobacco

Alcohol and tobacco is more expensive in Canada. For example, a case of 24 beers (Lakeport Lager or Black label) is CAD45.00 for 24 beers, approximately $1.87 (R18) per beer.  A bottle of wine starts at about CAD9.00 or R90 per bottle.

Cost of Real Estate and Mortgages

Interest rates for mortgages are about 3% in Canada. This rate depends on the size of the down payment, which is much lower than most other countries. The prices of property in every town varies and can be viewed at  – obviously not all properties are listed on this website but it gives the reader a general idea.  Property is usually a good investment in the long term.

Many people thinking about immigration to Canada have told me that property is too expensive in Vancouver or Toronto. It is important to understand that the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) consist of regional Municipalities or regions, including the:

  • Peel Region with the cities of Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon;
  • Durham Region with the cities of Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering and Bowmanville;
  • Halton Region with the cities such as of Oakville, Burlington and Milton; and
  • York Region with the Cities of Toronto, Aurora, King, Markham,  and Newmarket, etc.

The Greater Toronto Area is home to approximately 6 million people and includes 25 municipalities – not just one. When reference is made to the cost of housing of Toronto, reference is made to one of the 25 Municipalities of the Greater Toronto Area or the City of Toronto (and not an average of all 25 municipalities).  A house in Toronto that costs $2 million could cost $500, 000 in Burlington (35 km west of downtown).

Similarly,  the Greater Vancouver Area (GVA) has about 2.2 million people in 13 Municipalities, including the cities of Surrey, Vancouver, Mission, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Langley, White Rock, Burnaby, Maple Ridge, Pit Meadows and a few others. The City of Vancouver consists of North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Vancouver West and Vancouver East. When a reference is made to the cost of housing in ‘Vancouver’, it is made with specific reference to one of the 13 Municipalities of the Greater Vancouver Area, or the City of Vancouver;  it is not an average of all the 13 municipalities of the GVA. A house that costs $2 million in  the City  of Vancouver might cost $500 000 in the City of Maple Ridge which is 35 km East of Vancouver. Many people live in Maple Ridge and travel to Vancouver via train every day.

In the past 10 years the price of accommodation in many of the major cities has skyrocketed. There are many discussions about a ‘housing bubble’ and decreased affordability in certain cities. Research “housing bubble in Canada” and see what is reported in the media. Pay attention to which locations could have overvalued housing markets, as some parts of the country (especially small towns of certain provinces) are not directly affected.

Price of Freedom & Safety

It is also relevant to determine why one would work and live in Canada. Is the peace of mind of a stable future and safety in your own home something that one can measure in terms of dollars? I do not believe that is the case.

Future & Value of Pension

People asking questions about purchasing power of their income should also attempt to determine what is waiting for them in Canada over 10 or 20 years and compare that against the economic, political and personal futures in their own country.  This is not applicable for people that live in Canada for a short period.

One should look ahead and determine the value of a pension in Canada and compare it against a country such as South Africa. This question concerns the future. Individuals should consider predictions regarding the economic future of a country to determine the likelihood and potential of pension payouts or retirement planning. Unfortunately the scope of this discussion goes beyond this newsletter.

Many highly skilled people are not thinking ahead and making individual predictions concerning the future – as many people did not do in Zimbabwe.  Essentially this is not just a question about the price of milk but a question about the future and the risks involved in an individual’s choices.

Cost of Food and Household Consumables & Price Comparison

A comparison was made between the prices of a basket of goods: Canada vs. South Africa in October 2015. In Canada the prices were selected from The Canadian Superstore and in South Africa the prices of goods at Pick and Pay (comparable type of stores). This is obviously not a 100% scientific test. Many products are subject to seasonal fluctuations.

One interesting thing to note is the large variety of choice of products in Canada. It is not uncommon to shop for tomatoes and havr to choose between 9 or 10 types of tomatoes. A funny example can be used to show the difference in diversity of choices available to shoppers in Canada. During October 2015 a well-known retailer in South Africa had ‘Old Spice’ (men’s deodorant) for sale. There was only one fragrance available on the shelf, which was the traditional fragrance of ‘Old Spice’, called ‘Original’ in Canada. At the same time in Canada, 14 varieties of ‘Old Spice’ were available: Champion, Swagger, Timber, Lion Pride, Bear Glove, Amber, Denali, Pure Sport, Fox Crest, World Throne, Fiji, Citron, Game Day, Original, Fresh and Arctic Force. So be prepared for an overload of choices after arrival !

We also made a similar price comparison during November 2004 when the exchange rate was about R5 for C$1. By Oct 2015 the value of the Rand dropped to around R10 for C$1, which means the cost of Canadian goods skyrocketed in comparative terms (South African Rands). Therefore one can multiply the cost of Canadian goods by a factor of 10 to obtain an approximate price in Rands in Oct 2015. However, as mentioned earlier this is not good logic as salaries in Canada are generally higher than in South Africa; you will be earning the more powerful dollar. Potential immigrants should also consider the expected further depreciation of the Rand in the near future.

Here is a price comparison of several products based prices in Oct 2015.

Product Canada Price
South Africa Price
Difference between
Canada & South Africa
Potatoes $5.88
for 9 kg (about 30 lbs) or
about $0,65 per kg
R10 per kg The price in Canada is about 40 % cheaper
Bananas 1.70
per kg
(imported from Equador)
R9,95 per kg About the same price
Navel Oranges $4.97
for 4 lbs or
per kg
Double the price in Canada
Tomatoes $3.68
per kg
per kg
About 30% more expensive in Canada
Onions $16.98
for 22,7 kg or
about $,0,77 for 1 kg
R23,99 per kg South African is about 300% more expensive
for 85 ml
per 75 ml
South Africa is about 30% more expensive
Whole Chicken
per kg
per kg
Canada is a bit cheaper
$0.99 R15,99 Canada is about 30 % cheaper
Evaporated Milk $1.18
for 340 ml
for 380 grams
Canada is about 50% cheaper
Nestle Milo $11.98 for 900 grams R46,95 for 500 grams The price per gram is about the same
Salad Dressing $2.47 for 475 ml R29,99 for 200 grams Canada is a bit cheaper
Olive Oil
(Extra Virgin)
$6.1 for 500 ml R114 for 500 ml Canada is about 50 % cheaper
$6.98 for 1,42 liter R61,99 for 789 ml Canada is about 50 % cheaper
Milk $4.00 for 2 liters R21,99 for 2 liters Canada’s price is double that the South African price
(Whole Wheat)
$2.78 for 678g R11,99 for 700g bread Canada’s price is about double than the South African price
Nescafe Coffee $4.98 for 10g R58,90 for 200 grams Canada’s price is about double than the South African price
Vicka Actaplus $6.98 for 236 ml
(called Dayquil in Canada)
R61,99 150 ml Canada is much cheaper
$1.27 for a box R25,99
(100 Kleenex Tissues)
Canada’s price is about 50 % cheaper
Couscous $?? R36,99 for 275g Canada is about ….
Can Of Beans $1.67 for a can of 398 ml R8,49 400g Canada is slightly more expensive
Orea Cookies $2.97 for 300 grams R17,99 for 176 grams Canada is slightly cheaper
Frozen Corn
$5.00 for 2 kg R33,99 for 1kg Canada is slightly cheaper
Butter $3.69 for 454 kg R41,99 for 500g Canada is slightly cheaper
Margarine $2,98 for 907 kg R37,90 per kg Canada is slightly cheaper
Kellogg’s All Bran $5.98 for 980 g R59,99 for 1 kg About the same price
Canned Tuna $1,47 for 170 grams R15,99 for 170 grams Canada is about 30 % cheaper
Spaghetti $4.47 for 2 kg R15,59 for 500 grams Canada is 3 time cheaper
Dish Washing
$1.99 for 750 ml R49,90 for 750 ml Canada is 5 times cheaper
Baking Flour $5.98 for 2,5 kg R21,99 for 2,5 kg Canada’s price is double
(Pampers 9-14kg
52 diapers)
$22.99 for 104 diapers
(size 7-13 kg)
R199,99,for 52 diapers of size 9-14 South Africa’s price is double that of Canada
AA Batteries $8.49 for 8
R51,99 for 4
South Africa is a bit more expensive
Sunlight Detergent $6.97 for 1,47 liter R44,99 for 1,5 liter Canada is about 30 % more expensive
Sugar $2.79 for 2 kg R31,99 for 2,5 kg About the same price
Tomato Sauce
$3.47 for 1 liter R24,99 for 750 ml Canada is a little bit more expensive
Peanut Butter $6.49 for 2 kg R45,89 for 800g Canada is about 30 % cheaper
Eggs $2.89 for 12 eggs R34,90 for 24 eggs Canada is about double the price
White Rice $15.88 for 4,54 kg R35,99 for 2 kg South Africa is slightly more expensive
Potato Chips $2.65 for 255 grams R19,99 for 200 grams
About the same price
Water $4.29 for 10 liter R20,99 for 5 liter About the same price
(Old Spice)
$3.97 for 85 grams R46,99 for 50 ml Canada
is much cheaper & the Canadian
stick is about double the size
Toilet Paper $15.98
for 9 rolls or
about $1.60 for a role
R54,99 for 6 rolls or
about R10 for a role
Canada is a little bit more expensive
Paper Towels $6.97 for 6 rolls R18,99 for 2 rolls (52 sheets) Canada is about 30 % cheaper
Cheddar Cheese $25.98 for 2.27 kg R74,60 for 1 kg Canada is about 20 % cheaper

For what it is worth, here are some retailers in Canada: