Considering that Canada has one of the highest living standards in the world, it is hardly surprising that there are some fairly expensive cities in the country. There are now several cities in Canada where the average home costs over a million or close to a million Canadian dollars.

The ranking below is based on the cost-of-living index. It is an index that combines details of a range of expenses, including rent or mortgage, groceries, child care, education, health care and entertainment. The results are then compared to a baseline of one hundred. The closer to the base line the index is, the more expensive the city is.

Rank

City

Index

1

Vancouver, British Columbia

76.9

2

Victoria, British Columbia

75.5

3

Calgary, Alberta

74.8

4

Ottawa, Ontario

73.4

5

Toronto, Ontario

72.7

6

Edmonton, Alberta

69.1

7

Nanaino, British Columbia

68.9

8

Halifax, Nova Scotia

68.9

9

St Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador

68.7

10

Kamploops, British Columbia

68.1

11

Guelph, Ontario

67.6

12

Hamilton, Ontario

67.4

Below is a look at the twelve cities on the list in more detail.

Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver, BC

The most expensive city in Canada based on the cost of living index (Decemer 2023) is Vancouver. It is the biggest city in British Columbia and the Greater Vancouver area is home to 2.6 million people, making it the third largest cosmopolitan area in Canada behind Toronto and Montreal.

Vancouver has a booming house market and the average price of a home was $1,196,500 in October 2023. Desirable properties are snapped up pretty quickly, with the median days for houses on the market being only 15 days. The day-to-day living costs are also high, but so are average incomes. The job prospects in Vancouver are good, with a low unemployment rate of just 5.8% in November 2023.

Victoria, British Columbia

The second British Columbian city and the second most expensive on the list is the capital of British Columbia, Victoria. The main reason Victoria is so expensive is the high cost of homes. In November 2023, the price of an average single-family home in Victoria was $1,564,875. 

However, the high property prices are compensated with some of the lowest property taxes in the whole country. The wages in the area are also competitive. Since Victoria is the capital of the province, there are plenty of job opportunities within the government offices. However, the property industry now employs more people in Victoria than in any other sector.

Calgary, Alberta

Calgary is the largest city in Alberta and the third largest in Canada. It is home to approximately 1.3 million people. The city has been ranked twice as the most livable city in North America by The Economist.

Unlike in many other cities in Canada, house prices in Calgary are higher than a year ago. The average price rose by 10.2% year over year and the average price for a single-family home was $540,106 in November 2023. The price is similar to the second biggest city in Canada, Montreal, where an average home price was $516,000.

Ottawa, Ontario

Ottawa, Ontario

Ottawa is the capital city of Canada. It is the fourth largest city in Canada and the ninth most expensive. The average price of a family home in Ottawa was $635,574 in November 2023. As the population of the city grows, there is a higher demand for homes than there is a supply of homes. The same issue is behind the jumps in house prices in many of the popular areas and cities in Canada.

Since Ottawa is the political centre of Canada, the biggest employer in the city is the federal government. Other larger employment sectors in Ottawa include tourism, high-industry and health care.

Toronto, Ontario

Toronto, Ontario

Toronto is the first city of Ontario to make the most expensive cities list. It is the largest metropolitan area in Canada, with over 6.2 million people living in the Greater Toronto area. The city continuously attracts new residents because of its great employment opportunities. It is a hub for both global and domestic finance and business. The city is also very supportive of start-ups.

The average house prices in Toronto are comparable to Vancouver, with the average house price at $1,134,615 in November 2023.

Edmonton, Alberta

Edmonton is the capital of Alberta and home to just short of million people. Many of the city’s residents find employment in the oil and gas industry and job prospects in Edmonton are good. Edmonton is the eight most expensive city in Canada because of the higher than average cost of day-to-day living.

However, buying a property in Edmonton is cheap, compared to many of the other cities that made the most expensive cities list. Even though Edmonton is seeing rising prices on the property market, you can still get an average family home for around $396,550, which is a 4% increase from the previous year.

Nanaimo, British Columbia

Nanaimo, British Columbia

Nanaimo, the most expensive Canadian city, is situated on Vancouver Island. This city, with a population of around 90,000 is on the east coast of the island. It is a desirable place to live, but that is reflected in the house prices, with an average family home costing $700,917 in November 2023.

Many of the citi’s residents work in retail, accounting and real estate, but the biggest employer in the area is the health care system. The average incomes in Nanaimo are lower than in Victoria or Vancouver. However, out of the three cities, Nanaimo has seen the biggest growth in median family employment income.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax is the capital city of Nova Scotia. The city benefits from approximately 40% cheaper rental market than, for example, Toronto or Vancouver. The house prices here are lower, too, with the average price in November 2023 at $652,313. However, the prices have risen sharply over the last few years. A year ago, the average house price was  $505,604.

Halifax is a centre for business in eastern Canada and its largest employment sectors are in health and social assistance services, trade, public administration, and education. However, the wages in Halifax are not yet as competitive as other cities of its size, and it also has higher than average taxes.

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador

St John’s is the provincial capital and one of the oldest cities in North America. It has one of the lowest real estates in Canada. At an average of $275,984 for a single-family detached home, the house prices are significantly lower than in the top three cities on the list. 

With such low property prices, one might begin to wonder why is St John’s on the list at all. What makes St John’s an expensive Canadian city is the higher cost of day-to-day living. This includes the cost of public transport, which is one of the most expensive in Canada.

Kamploops

Kamloops has a population of just over 97,000, which makes it the second-largest city located inland in British Columbia. The average home in Kamloops costs $652,096, which makes it cheaper than many other locations, especially those on the seafront, in British Columbia.

Kamloops is often referred to as the tournament capital of Canada because of the many events it hosts every year. One of the best-known events in Kamploos is the film festival held in March.

Guelph, Ontario

Guelph, Ontario

Guelph is situated between some of Ontario’s largest economic hubs, including Toronto, Waterloo and Hamilton. With such a central location, it would be easy to assume that many people from Guelph commute to the nearby larger cities for work. However, most of its residents find work locally. In fact, Guelph is one of the easiest cities to find employment according to the Bank of Montreal.

Smaller places like Guelph, with a population of 135,000 people, often have cheaper properties than larger cities. However, this is not the case in Guelph where you can expect to pay almost $800,000 for an average family home. The average price was $798,153 in November 2023.

Hamilton, Ontario

Hamilton is a popular choice among people looking for a slightly cheaper alternative to Toronto. In November 2023, the average home cost $872,520 in Hamilton. It is located in the so-called Golden Horseshoe, which is the most industrualised and populated area in Canada.

Hamilton is known for its waterfalls and is sometimes referred to as the world’s waterfall capital. Because of the waterfalls, Hamilton attracts many tourists every year and the city has a booming tourist industry.

Conclusion

The interesting thing about the most expensive cities in Canada is that they all still rank below the 100 cost-of-living index base line. The reason for this is that none of the cities have high costs in all the areas looked at when forming the cost-of-living index.

Cities that have the highest property prices will often have lower cost of, for example groceries, utility bills or child care. Other regions might have lower taxes or higher average incomes to balance out the overall living costs.

The bottom line is that you could choose any of the cities included on this list and provided that you earn a decent salary, live quite comfortably. You will also be guaranteed a high standard of living, a great educational system, free health care, lots of recreational options and plenty of beautiful nature. All of which are part of the high standards of life in Canada.

Frequently Asked Questions

The cost-of-living index considers an array of costs, including:

  • Housing
  • Taxes
  • Food
  • Transport
  • Energy and other utilities
  • Healthcare
  • Childcare
  • Entertainment and recreation

You can use the cost-of-living index to work out how far your salary will go in different parts of the country. You can also compare the cost of living in Canada to other countries.

Seeing that cities from British Columbia take the top three spots on the list of most expensive cities in Canada, it would be safe to say that British Columbia is the most expensive province in Canada.

There are many reasons why some places are more expensive than others. Factors such as the availability of property, the job market, and how popular the area all have an impact on the prices in an area.