Canada is one of the best countries in the world to live in. It has free universal health care, a great education system, stunning nature and exciting cities, many of which are multicultural, expanding and fun.
It is a country that respects all citizens’ rights and has a strong and fair judicial system. It has one of the best living standards and lowest crime rates in the world, making it a safe place to live and to bring up a family.
What is interesting is that despite the high living standards, Canada has a reasonable cost-of-living index too. On the global cost-of-living table, Canada is 24th with an index of 68. The countries that have the highest index are Bermuda with 141.1, Switzerland with 117.3, and Cayman Islands with 115.4
What does the cost-of-living index mean and how is it used to compare locations?
The cost of living index is based on the cost of different expenses including taxes, food, renting or buying, transport, household bills and healthcare. It also includes the cost of going out, entertainment and recreation activities. For example, the average costs of eating in a restaurant, a cinema ticket or a membership in a gym.
The baseline figure used to compare the cost of living in different countries or areas is 100. Those that score above the figure are more expensive and those that score under are cheaper. The lower the figure, the cheaper the area is and the more (in theory at least) you will have left in your pocket after all your expenses.
We have used the cost-of-living index to work out the fifteen most affordable cities in Canada. Eleven of the cities have a cost-of-living index, which is lower than the index for Canada as a whole country.
|6||Surrey, British Columbia||64.7|
|8||Kelowna, British Columbia||65.4|
|9||Red Deer, Alberta||65.5|
|13||Burnaby, British Columbia||66.7|
Brampton is a growing city with a population nearing 656,000. Since it is less than half an hour from Toronto, it has become hugely popular with people commuting to Toronto for work. The city’s population has risen by nearly 100,000 in the last ten years. Despite the surge in its population, Brampton still has an affordable real estate market, especially when compared to nearby Toronto.
The main employers in Brampton include retail, manufacturing, food and beverage industries and business services. There is also a growing market for people looking to work in information and communication technologies.
Windsor, which is on the Canada – US border, has a population of 226,000. Windsor has a low cost-of-living index thanks to an affordable rental market and inexpensive food and transport.
Windsor’s unemployment rate peaked at 11.7% in May 2020 but is now 5.8%, just slightly above the national rate. The city has been working hard to create new jobs and to improve the figure. The biggest employment sector in the city is manufacturing, with some of the biggest companies in the area being Stellantis, Ford Motor Company and Integram, all involved in automotive production. The University of Windsor is also a major employer in the city and has been named one of the best employers in Canada by Forbes magazine.
Kitchener is a home for around 256,000 people and has seen many new residents arriving in search of cheaper properties. With the increase of work-from-home opportunities, many people have been moving out of bigger and more expensive cities in favour of smaller cities with a more affordable housing market.
As a result, the prices have increased in Kitchener, but it is still noticeably cheaper than in Toronto. And while a home in Kitchener will cost you almost double compared to Quebec or Montreal, the cheaper cost of day to day living still makes this city an affordable place to live.
Kingston is located on the Lake Ontario near the border with the United States. It is home to just over 132,000 people. The city is not one of the most affordable for buying or renting, with its lakeside location pushing up property prices. However, your day-to-day living is cheaper, which is why Kingston is the ninth cheapest city in Canada according to its cost-of-living index.
Many people in Kingston find work in health care, higher education, tourism, or in government offices. The job market in the city is strong, with even more jobs predicted to become available in the future as many people reach their retirement age.
The population in London is 422,000 and it is the fourth biggest city in Ontario. In London, too, house prices have been steadily rising, but because other, day-to-day living costs are low, it is an affordable place to live.
The unemployment rate rose in London during and following the pandemic, but has now come back down. In November 2023, the rate was 5.8%. Being a health care and education centre for the region, many people living in London find employment in those two sectors. There is also a growing IT and research sector in the city.
Surrey, British Columbia
Surrey is the second biggest city in British Columbia after Vancouver. Being only 34 kilometres from Vancouver, it is a lot cheaper to live in than its neighbouring city. Despite more people moving to Surrey and still commuting to work in Vancouver, especially during and following the global pandemic, the house prices have remained affordable.
The main employment sectors in the city are manufacturing, agriculture, health care and education. There is also a growing number of employment opportunities in the information technology sectors with companies such as Apple and Microsoft.
Regina is the 16th largest city in Canada and a home to just over 250,000 people. It is the capital of Saskatchewan. It is considered a tax haven because it has low sales, property and personal income taxes.
In November 2023, the unemployment rate for Regina is 5.4% and there are jobs to be found in construction, agriculture, public administration and with the largest steel company in western Canada, EVRAZ. Wages in Regina are very competitive and it is not uncommon for families to live on one wage only with it covering all the bills and still being able to afford a happy and contended life.
Kelowna, British Columbia
Kelowna, which is an Okanagan language term for a grizzly bear, is situated on the Okanagan Lake within the Okanagan Valley. It is an affordable city where the cost of homes and living are both below the average for British Columbia.
The unemployment rate in Kelowna has improved since 2022 and is currently at 3.9%, which is below the national rate. Kelowna also is, like many other Canadian cities, a city with an ageing population, which means there is a rising demand for workers in the city. Many people in Kelowna are employed in the health, retail and manufacturing sectors.
Red Deer, Alberta
With a population of 105,000, Red Deer is smaller than the average size city for Canada. Situated in Alberta, much of the city’s working age population are employed in the oil industry. Other major employment sectors include agriculture and farming.
Red Deer has had a high unemployment rate in the past, but it has been steadily improving over the last year. In November 2023, the rate was at 7.4% compared to a peak of 10.2% in March 2021. The city is actively creating new jobs and is known to be very supportive of new businesses. There is a lot of support for start-ups helping them to develop their business.
Winnipeg is the seventh largest city in Canada with a population of approximately 770,000. There are plenty of job opportunities in the city with health care and construction being among the main employment sectors. The city also has a growing IT industry which is supported by manufacturing hubs.
What makes Winnipeg so affordable is the price of property as well as low living costs. There is abundant housing, which has kept the prices in check. Renting is equally affordable and there are plenty of one-bedroom properties for rent.
With a population of over 1.7 million, Montreal is the second largest city in Canada and the largest city in Quebec. The city has a strong economy, the second largest in Canada, and employment prospects in Montreal are good. There are job opportunities in various sectors including manufacturing and aerospace industry. Finance is also are a large employment sector in Montreal, with the Royal Bank of Canada and the Bank of Montreal both having headquarters in the city.
Despite its size, Montreal is still a very affordable city to live in mainly because its housing market is still extremely reasonable. A family house will cost around $656,625. Compare that to, for example, Toronto, where you will be looking at over a million.
Saskatoon is the largest city is Saskatchewan. It is in the central region of the province, on the South Saskatchewan River, and has a population of 260,000. Renting and buying are both very affordable in Saskatoon. For example, a bungalow will cost about a third of what it would cost in Vancouver. The residents of Saskatoon also benefit from one of the lowest tax rates in the country.
Many people living in Saskatoon find employment in the distribution and logistics sectors and the city has the nickname ”Hub City”. Agriculture is another major employment sector in the area and more recently, many digital media start-ups have made Saskatoon their base.
Burnaby, British Columbia
Burnaby, a city in British Columbia, is home to approximately 270,000 people. It benefits from its proximity to Vancouver, which opens up additional employment opportunities for those Burnaby residents happy to do the short commute. Barnaby has a high cost of living, but it is still has the third lowest cost-of-living index in Canada because balancing factors such as competitive salaries.
The city also has a strong local economy and is projecting future job growth of almost 37% in the next ten years. There are job opportunities in both private and public sectors, and the most in demand professions include education, law, health care and accounting. One of the country’s leading media companies, Canada Wide Media, has their headquarters in Burnaby and is another major employer in the area.
Similarly to Brampton, Hamilton is also a popular choice among people who are looking for a cheaper alternative to Toronto. It is a slightly smaller city than Brampton, with just over 561,000 residents.
The city is in Canada’s most industrialized and populated area, and the job market in Brampton is strong. There are jobs within the steel industry and within tourism. Brampton also has excellent post-secondary education facilities, with many people finding employment in education. Health care is also a major source of employment with seven hospitals in Hamilton.
Guelph is a popular choice for families who are relocating not only because it is an affordable city, but also because it is a very safe place to live. It consistently ranks among the top ten safest cities in Canada. It also benefits from its proximity to many major cities, including Toronto which is within an hour’s drive.
Guelph has often had a lower than average unemployment rate. However, statistics from October 2023 show that the unemployment was at 6%, which is above the national average.
If you are looking to move to an affordable Canadian city, these fifteen cities give you plenty to choose from. They range from smaller cities to the second largest city in Canada and are located in six different provinces. And whichever you might choose, you will benefit from the high standard that is Canadian living.
Frequently Asked Questions
One of the best ways to compare affordability is to use the cost-of-living index. You will find the cost-of-living index on websites such as Numbeo. The cost-of-living index allows you to compare how far your money will go in each place. However, your salary may be less in different parts of Canada, so find out what you would be paid in each area, too.
Ontario has some of the most affordable cities in Canada. However, there are also some very expensive cities in Ontario, so you need to look at each city separately to find out what it costs to live there.
How affordable a place depends on the cost of property, daily expenses such as food and travel, taxes, and the cost of household bills. Some areas that have high property prices can still be affordable because they have cheaper taxes or daily living costs.