Ontario vs. British Columbia: Which Province is Better to Live In?

Should You Live in Ontario or British Columbia?

Deciding between living in Ontario and British Columbia is a big choice for anyone considering a move. Ontario's top cities are bustling and filled with economic opportunities, while British Columbia is known for its stunning natural landscapes and outdoor lifestyle. Each province has its unique benefits, from Ontario's cultural diversity and historical sites to British Columbia's mild climate and world-class recreational activities. A comparison and analysis of the key differences and what each province offers can make for an easier decision between the two. Discover which province aligns best with your lifestyle preferences and needs.

Main Comparisons

  • British Columbia has a slightly higher average monthly cost of living than Ontario, with averages of $4,800 and $4,100, respectively, influenced by housing costs, provincial taxes, and employment opportunities.
  • Key expenses influencing the cost of living include high housing costs, particularly in Toronto and Vancouver, and the higher top provincial income tax rate in British Columbia, which can affect take-home pay and affordability for individuals in higher income brackets.
  • Ontario and British Columbia offer varied lifestyles with different recreational activities, community and cultural offerings, and education opportunities, all of which contribute to each province's overall quality of life.

Exploring the Cost of Living in Ontario and British Columbia

When it comes to the cost of living, British Columbia and Ontario lead among Canadian provinces, with monthly household averages of $4,800 and $4,100, respectively. Now, don’t let these numbers unnerve you just yet. Remember, these are averages, and actual costs can vary significantly based on factors such as location within the province, lifestyle, and personal spending habits. The cost of living in Ontario, lower than British Columbia, is inflated by living costs in Toronto and Ottawa, while BC’s is inflated primarily by the greater Vancouver area and Vancouver Island. 

Several key factors contribute to these averages, including housing affordability, provincial taxes, and employment opportunities. And while the living wage in both provinces is fairly comparable, these factors often tip the scales and make one province more affordable than the other.

For instance, the average single person in British Columbia spends about $3,000 per month on basic expenses, including rent, while a family of four averages $4,800 per month. By contrast, individuals in Ontario, particularly those living in or near Toronto, spend just over $3,000 per month on basic expenses (rent included), with families averaging just over $4,100 per month.

Factors such as scenery, quality of life, and climate may contribute to the high cost of living in British Columbia, exacerbated by inflation affecting prices for food, healthcare, housing, transportation, and goods and services.

Housing Affordability in Ontario and BC

Aerial View of Toronto Neighbourhood

A significant chunk of the average monthly cost in any province is housing, and when it comes to Ontario and British Columbia, this is no different. In fact, high demand in Toronto and Vancouver has significantly impacted housing costs, making it a pressing issue for both renters and buyers. 

There are more affordable options in each province’s small towns and medium-sized cities, though there’s a more significant drop in price in Ontario than in BC. The average home price in Chilliwack, BC, located 100 kilometres east of Vancouver, is around $770,000; homes for sale in Windsor, Ontario, on the other hand, average out to $508,000.

In February 2024, the average rent in BC was $2,481, while the average in Ontario was $2,431; the difference is minimal, ranking as the two highest rent averages among Canadian provinces. 

There’s a more significant difference for homebuyers, though real estate in the two provinces is significantly more expensive than any other. The February 2024 national benchmark home price, which is the price of an average home in the province, was around $966,000 in BC and $868,000 in Ontario. BC also saw a higher annual percentage change than Ontario, increasing by 4% compared to Ontario’s negligible 0.1% increase.

Next, let’s discuss another key factor: provincial taxes.

Provincial Taxes and Their Impact

The role of provincial income taxes is a vital aspect to consider when evaluating the cost of living in BC and Ontario. These taxes directly impact your take-home pay and, thus, your spending power. Ontario’s provincial income tax rates begin at 5.05% on the first $51,446 of taxable income in 2024, whereas British Columbia’s start at 5.06% on the first $47,937.

However, it’s the higher income brackets where the disparity between Ontario and BC taxes truly shines. British Columbia has a higher top provincial income tax rate of 20.5% on amounts over $252,752 in 2024 compared to Ontario’s top rate of 13.16% on amounts over $220,000. This gap could result in a notable difference in take-home pay for individuals in higher income brackets. Consequently, the varying provincial tax rates between Ontario and British Columbia impact overall affordability, potentially influencing where individuals choose to live and work. 

Overall, high-paying work opportunities in Chatham-Kent or Toronto may appeal more than those in Vancouver or Surrey due to the lower top-end income tax rates. But what about employment prospects? Does one province have a distinct advantage over the other?

Employment Landscape

A promising job market is undoubtedly a key factor when considering where to live. Here are some key statistics about the job market in British Columbia:

  • Over 1 million new job openings are expected over the next decade.
  • The current unemployment rate is about 5.2%.
  • About 74,000 jobs were added in BC in 2023.

In Ontario, the unemployment rate in February 2024 was 6.5%, and one of the areas that saw the largest jobs increase was the accommodation and food services sector. Notably, the unemployment rate in Ottawa was 4.5%, while Toronto’s was 6.7%.

The thriving IT industry in both British Columbia and Ontario, ranking among the top five provinces in Canada with the highest concentration of IT jobs, is a beacon for career growth in tech. But it’s worth noting that the average salary for IT workers in British Columbia is approximately $75,000 annually compared to $63,000 in Ontario. Additionally, nearly 80% of the forecasted job openings in British Columbia over the next decade will require post-secondary education, suggesting a need for higher skills and competencies.

Let’s shift our focus from income to expenses, specifically, daily life expenses.

The Price of Daily Life: Food, Utilities, and Transportation

When it comes to daily life expenses, it’s the little things that add up. From the morning coffee you grab on your way to work to the electricity bill at the end of the month, these costs form a significant portion of your monthly budget.

Between 2021 and 2022, Canada experienced an average food price inflation of around 10.5%, with predictions indicating a rise in food prices from 2.5% to 4.5% in 2024. 

Additionally, gas prices have contributed to the overall increase in living expenses. Average gas prices in BC amount to roughly $1.99 per litre, with Ontario averaging around $1.59 per litre. So if you’re planning a trip to one of the top locations to see the Northern Lights in Ontario, driving will likely be cheaper than doing so in BC.

But how do these figures translate to your grocery bill? What about utilities and transportation costs? Let’s examine in detail the grocery bills, utility costs, and public transportation expenses in these provinces.

Grocery Bills Across Provinces

Grocery shopping is a common weekly chore that can significantly impact your monthly budget. In Ontario, a four-person household spends roughly $1,150 per month on groceries, while in BC, this figure is approximately $1,300 monthly.

Comparing Utility Costs

From electricity to water and gas, utility costs can make a significant dent in your monthly budget. In Ontario, these utilities' average monthly costs are $125, $80, and $31.50, respectively. In comparison, these costs are higher in British Columbia, with electricity at $175, water at $200 based on 20 cubic meters usage, and natural gas at $90. Factors like Ontario’s biannually reviewed electricity rates and British Columbia’s stepped electricity rates that aim to encourage conservation influence these utility costs. 

Additionally, Ontario’s colder, snowy winters lead to higher electricity consumption compared to British Columbia’s milder climate, particularly in places like the Vancouver area. Water bills in both provinces include variable usage charges and fixed service fees, with Ontario billing bi-monthly and British Columbia’s charges varying by city.

Let’s now turn our attention to public transportation and commuting expenses.

Public Transportation and Commuting Expenses

SkyTrain Station in Burnaby, BC

Whether you’re commuting to work, running errands, or exploring the city, transportation costs are an integral part of daily life. Plus, these expenses have a significant impact on the economy in Ontario and British Columbia. Public transportation rates in both provinces can be particularly impactful when deciding between Ontario and BC. For example, a monthly public transport pass costs around $156 in Greater Toronto. Over in Metro Vancouver, it costs between $105–$190, depending on transit zones.

It’s time to transition from daily necessities to more enjoyable aspects: lifestyle and leisure.

Lifestyle and Leisure: Quality of Life in Ontario vs British Columbia

Although we’ve focused mainly on financial aspects so far, lifestyle and leisure activities also play a crucial role when comparing Ontario and British Columbia. After all, life isn’t all about work and bills, right? The quality of life in a province encompasses factors like health care systems, educational opportunities, and outdoor recreational activities.

Interestingly, Vancouver has a large sports enthusiast sector, with more than 1,600 acres of parkland, 32 kilometres of trails, and around 80 developed parks. Toronto, for its part, has over 1,000 parks, 839 sports fields and 137 community centres. Ontario’s best beaches are found on lakes and rivers, while British Columbia boasts beaches on the Pacific Ocean in addition to its abundant lakes.

But do these numbers imply a better quality of life in Ontario versus BC? Not necessarily. It depends on your personal preferences and lifestyle choices. For a thorough comparison, we need to consider the healthcare systems, educational opportunities, and outdoor recreational activities in Metro Vancouver and these provinces.

Health Care Systems Compared

Health care is a crucial factor when considering the quality of life in a province. British Columbia’s Medical Services Plan (MSP) mandates income-based premium payments from residents, while Ontario’s Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) provides health care coverage to residents without the requirement of premium payments.

While both plans offer coverage for medically necessary hospital and doctors’ services, the difference in premium payments could be a decisive factor for potential residents. For instance, British Columbia residents may be eligible for premium assistance with the MSP based on their financial circumstances. What about opportunities in education?

Education Opportunities

Education is a significant factor, especially for families with children or young adults looking to further their studies. Ontario offers a broader choice of universities, and the cost of post-secondary education in both provinces varies, with both offering financial aid. It’s worth noting, however, that prices for training and education in BC continue to rise.

Outdoor and Recreational Activities

Kayaking Near Manitoulin Island, Ontario

Outdoor and recreational activities are essential for a balanced lifestyle, and each province has its unique offerings. Some popular outdoor activities in British Columbia include:

  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Mountain biking
  • Hiking

These activities are particularly popular in regions like Whistler and the North Shore mountains. For water recreation, British Columbia boasts a tremendous amount of Pacific Ocean coastline.

On the other hand, Ontario’s best lakes and waterways offer abundant options for boating, fishing, and cross-country skiing, a core aspect of its outdoor lifestyle epitomized by the Muskoka region and the Great Lakes. Access to national and provincial parks in both provinces enhances residents’ quality of life by providing spaces for outdoor leisure and nature appreciation.

Let’s now take a closer look at the real estate markets in these provinces.

Real Estate Markets: Ontario vs British Columbia

High-Rise Condos and Residential Neighbourhood in Coquitlam, BC

The real estate market is another crucial factor to consider when comparing the cost of living in Ontario and British Columbia. Whether you’re looking to rent or buy, housing prices can have a significant impact on your monthly budget.

British Columbia is known for its pricey properties, particularly in major cities like Vancouver and Victoria. Ontario, on the other hand, has a more diverse range of housing options and generally lower housing prices, although this can vary depending on the location within the province.

In Greater Toronto, the vast majority of condos, townhomes, and single-family properties generally ask between $600,000 and $1.5 million, though the region’s average price is around $1.3 million. For homebuyers comparing living in Toronto and Windsor, the latter’s average home price of around $525,000 can be a tremendous influence. Metro Vancouver’s typical range is from $800,000 to $2 million or more, depending on the location and property type.

Stringent zoning laws and height restrictions in Vancouver are key regulatory factors that restrict housing supply, impacting housing affordability in the area. Meanwhile, within Greater Toronto, population growth coupled with low housing supply is a primary driver of housing affordability challenges in the area.

What implications do these data have for potential residents? Is it better to rent or buy?

Settling Down: Lifestyle Considerations

Lifestyle considerations are vital when deciding where to settle down. From childcare costs to community and cultural offerings, these factors contribute to the overall quality of life in a province.

Child Care Costs

When comparing child care costs in British Columbia and Ontario, BC shows an approximate cost of $800 per month for one child, whereas Ottawa and Toronto, serving as reference points for Ontario, have average child care costs between $600 and $1,600 per month for one child.

The most expensive childcare option is typically in-home nannies. In British Columbia, for example, the average cost of an in-home nanny is around $2,600 per month. 

Aside from childcare costs, what community and cultural offerings do these provinces provide?

Community and Cultural Offerings

Toronto Canada Day Fireworks Over City Skyline

Community and cultural offerings are an important aspect of settling down in a new province. They contribute to a sense of belonging and enrich the overall living experience, evidenced by the popularity of celebrating Family Day in Ontario and events like the Vancouver International Film Festival in BC.

In both BC and Ontario, cultural offerings range from world-class museums, galleries, and theatres to vibrant music scenes, festivals, and community events.

These cultural offerings enrich the social fabric of each province and provide a diverse range of unique experiences, including

  • Food
  • Festivals
  • Arts
  • Entertainment

Whether you’re a culture enthusiast or looking for a diverse community for your family, Ontario and British Columbia offer a vibrant cultural scene that caters to a multitude of tastes and preferences.

Love Living in Ontario and BC

After a detailed comparison of Ontario and British Columbia, it’s clear that the ‘better’ province is subjective and depends on personal preferences and circumstances. Each province has a unique allure, be it the bustling hubs and bounty of things to do in Ontario or the lush landscapes of British Columbia. However, the cost of living in Ontario vs BC can have a significant impact on your finances.

Whether you’re considering housing affordability, provincial taxes, employment opportunities, daily life expenses, lifestyle and leisure activities, or family and lifestyle considerations, each factor contributes to the overall cost of living. When choosing between Ontario and British Columbia, it’s essential to weigh these factors according to your personal priorities. After all, the best province is the one that feels more like home.

If you're ready to move to Ontario, contact Team Goran of RE/MAX CARE Realty at (519) 979-9949 to reach a local real estate agent who can help find your dream Ontario home.

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