At the center of economic well-being lies the concept of minimum wage, a factor that significantly shapes the cost of living for individuals and families in Canada. The minimum wage dictates the ability to secure a household, access healthcare, and bring food on the table.

The minimum wage holds an undeniable influence over the overall quality of life, determining whether individuals can meet their basic needs. Understanding the interconnection between minimum wage rates and the cost of living is essential in addressing the economic issues on all levels. For those interested in more detailed information on wages and legal nuances, there is a research of the minimum wage in Canada for 2023. In this post, we explore the wage rates and the cost of living rates in Canadian provinces and the biggest cities.

Minimum Wage in Canada

On April 1, 2023, the federal minimum wage increased from $15.55 to $16.65 per hour, aligning with the rate of inflation. Canada’s minimum wage predominantly aligns with rates set by individual provinces and territories. It’s important to note that the newly established federal minimum wage of $16.65 exclusively impacts workers in sectors subject to federal oversight, including banking, postal services, interprovincial transportation, etc.

Regional Variations in Minimum Wage

Every province and territory has the right to establish its own wage rates. The table below shows rates as of 2023.


Province / Territory Minimum Hourly Wage
Federal $16.65
Alberta $15.00
British Columbia $16.75
Manitoba $14.15 – $15.30
New Brunswick $14.75
Newfoundland and Labrador $14.50 – $15.00
Northwest Territories $15.20
Nova Scotia $14.50 – $15.00
Nunavut $16.00
Ontario $15.50 – $16.55
Prince Edward Island $14.50 – $15.00
Quebec $15.25
Saskatchewan $14.00 – $15.00
Yukon $16.77

Cost of Living Factors

In big Canadian cities, the value of living is a challenge due to numerous factors. Housing costs often dominate budgets, with sky-high rent or mortgage payments that increase literally every year. Additionally, utility bills, transportation expenses, and groceries can take a considerable part of a household’s income.

Childcare costs, especially for working parents, are another significant factor that demands attention. Interestingly, in Canada, living as a bigger family is not cheaper, like it is in some other countries if the family shares a house and utility bills. Vice versa, the bigger the family the disproportionally bigger the expenses, mostly due to the rent price.

Health care expenses, including insurance premiums and prescription medications, further strain budgets. Furthermore, the urban lifestyle often involves higher entertainment and dining out expenses compared to smaller towns.

Cost of Living in the Biggest Cities

The table below highlights the average value of living for a single person. However, families of two or more will face a much higher cost of living.

City Cost of Living (A single person’s estimated monthly costs without rent) (CAD)


Average Rent (1 bedroom) (CAD)
Toronto 1,512.0 1,330
Montreal 1,302.7 1,587
Calgary 1,539.0 1,497
Ottawa 1,487.3 1,950
Edmonton 1,450.7 1,707
Mississauga 1,328.1 1,996
Winnipeg 1,332.6 1,201
Vancouver 1,471.3 2,800
Brampton 1,295.6 2,061
Quebec 1,380.8 1,574
Hamilton 1,403.8 1,758
Laval 1,110.1 1,529
Surrey 1,377.1 1,421
Halifax 1,409.9 1,939
London 1,354.8 1,695
Markham 1,387.6 2,100

Cost of Living Differences in Big and Small Cities

The cost of living diverges significantly between big cities and small towns in Canada, driven by a multitude of factors. In major urban centers, housing costs tend to skyrocket due to high demand, limited space, and increased competition for real estate. These cities often boast a vibrant job market, but it comes with the trade-off of higher transportation expenses, including public transit and parking fees. Moreover, the prices of dining out and entertainment can be notably higher in bustling cities.

Surprisingly, smaller towns can sometimes counterintuitively be more expensive due to factors such as limited access to essential services, which may result in longer commutes and higher transportation costs per case. In remote areas, groceries and other daily necessities can also be pricier due to lack of competition, high transportation costs, storing expenses, and so on.

As a result, while the cost of living in a big city may seem over the top, the average wages and the availability of choice and competition in products and services may create some conditions for choosing more affordable options. Smaller towns, on the other hand, don’t have these options.

Challenges Faced by Low-Wage Workers

Earning minimum wage in Canada brings a host of challenges that can be financially hard for individuals and families. Housing expenses alone often consume a substantial portion of their income, leaving little room for other needs, even essentials. Even groceries become a significant expense. Health care can be a luxury when medical bills pile up, especially for those without comprehensive insurance coverage, or for families with several children.

Additionally, low-wage workers frequently face job insecurity, irregular hours, and a lack of benefits like paid sick leave or retirement plans, making it close to impossible to plan for the future in financial terms.

Strategies for Coping

For low-wage workers striving to navigate the financial challenges of life in the cities of Canada, big or small, there are practical strategies that can make a difference.

Budgeting becomes an indispensable tool, helping individuals track expenses, prioritize necessities, and set achievable financial goals based on their income and spending. Government programs, community organizations, and food banks can provide vital support when needed.

Additionally, exploring ways to cut expenses, such as carpooling or cooking meals at home, can create significant savings over time. Individuals and families alike can create safety networks and networks of support with friends and relatives and share transportation, buying groceries, babysitting, etc., to cut expenses adequately.