Canadians complaining about the cost of living in Vancouver or Toronto ought to try a stint in Luanda in Angola or Hong Kong.
According to the recent cost of living tally by global consultancy firm Mercer, both Vancouver and Toronto land somewhere in the center, placing 119 and 125 respectively on the list which takes into account the cost of over 200 goods and services in over 360 cities worldwide. Meanwhile, Montreal place 140 and Calgary came in 146.
It turns out Canadian cities are on par with luxe locales like Barcelona or Cairo which placed 124 and 120.
Compared to last year, it’s a 23-spot drop for Vancouver and 25-space slip for Toronto on the chichi list, but it pales in comparison to Toronto’s 61 place finish and Vancouver’s 63 in 2012.
The catalyst is Canada’s weakening loonie against the U.S. greenback, says Gordon Frost, Mercer’s Talent Leader for Canada.
“There are two variables that influence the index movement, the currency and the price movement, both in the home and in the host location – the strengthening of the US Dollar is the main element that drove cities up and down in the ranking,” Frost told Yahoo Canada.
To collect the data for the survey, which is used by multinational companies to determine allowances for their expat workers, Mercer relies on independent researchers based in each city to collect prices in the local currency ranging from housing, food at home and personal care to clothing, entertainment and transportation costs.
“Education and healthcare are not (considered), as it is usually provided by the employers as a separate allowance,” explains Frost adding that each item has a weight according to its importance. “The category that is the most heavily weighted is housing.”
He points out that during the survey in March, researchers saw a spike in price increases in the majority of locations surveyed.
“One of the reasons being the general decrease in oil and gas prices that impacted the Mercer basket inflation,” he says.
New York, the baseline city, held strong at 16 making it the most expensive city in North America.
“We chose New York City as it is recognized as one of the world’s international financial centres,” says Frost.
As for the discrepancy between Vancouver and Toronto, Frost cautions not to read into it too much.
“The cost differences (between the two) are not that significant,” he says. “Other than differences in housing, driven in part by offshore investment, it is a number of smaller elements within the basket of goods that add up to higher costs in Vancouver.”
But Monocle Magazine seems to see it differently, with Vancouver pulling ahead of other Canadian cities despite its pricey handicap. The coastal city placed seventh in the lifestyle magazine’s annual quality of life survey, with Toronto nowhere in sight of the top ten.
Noting its ambitions to be the greenest city in the world, the ability to surf, ski and hike all in a single day and the more than $30 million it has set aside for parks at gardens, Monocle’s index takes into account a diverse range of metrics from the price of a three-bed house and the cost of a coffee or glass of wine to more abstract elements like culture.
It also touted Vancouver’s transit system, which Moncole says: “outperforms its counterparts in Toronto and Montreal.”
As per Mercer’s list, Luanda, Angola is buoyed at the top by its four and five star dining, which is understandably pricier in developing countries. The top 10 and bottom 10 are as follows:
1 Luanda, Angola
2 Hong Kong, Hong Kong
3 Zurich, Switzerland
4 Singapore, Singapore
5 Geneva, Switzerland
6 Shanghai, China
7 Beijing, China
8 Seoul, South Korea
9 Bern, Switzerland
10 N'Djamena, Chad
198 Tbilisi, Georgia
199 Managua, Nicaragua
200 Cape Town, South Africa
200 Minsk, Belarus
202 Banjul, Gambia
203 Skopje, Macedonia
204 Tunis, Tunisia
205 Karachi, Pakistan
206 Windhoek, Namibia
207 Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan