A Tale of Ten Cities


A Tale of Ten Cities: Comparing Key Costs for a Family of Four in Urban Areas of Northern and Southern Ontario

April 2, 2020 | Anthony Noga

Urban living appears to be more affordable in Northern Ontario than the south.

This commentary examines the costs of some key goods and services for a family of four in 10 Ontario cities – five in the south and the 'Big Five' in the north – in order to provide a preliminary comparison of costs. The Big Five communities include Thunder Bay, Greater Sudbury, Timmins, North Bay, and Sault Ste. Marie.

These goods and services include: shelter, utilities, cell phone, internet, gasoline, vehicle insurance, transit, food, recreation, and children's activities. Expenses that were not examined in this study include: vehicle payments, home and vehicle maintenance, tax, vices, personal care products, clothing, and travel. Data limitations prevented a more comprehensive examination – a commonly noted barrier especially when it comes to Northern Ontario.

While some goods and services – namely food, and especially phone and internet – tended to be higher in Ontario's north, these additional costs were offset by substantially lower shelter costs. Among the most surprising finding was that incomes in the Big Five tended to be on par, and often higher, than the Southern Ontario comparators. The result is that residents in the northern communities tended to spend a much smaller percentage of their income on these key goods and services, and had more money left over to put towards other expenses.

A Tale of 10 Cities concludes with recommendations on how the Big Five can use these findings to their advantage. Further research could expand to smaller communities and include more expenses to produce a more robust picture of the living-related costs in Northern Ontario.


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