Canada’s poverty measure shows the high cost of necessities in Calgary

The latest Market Basket Measure numbers show Calgary's cost of living is the highest of major cities in Canada

1 December 2023

hands holding an empty black wallet

This week, Statistics Canada released an updated Market Basket Measure (MBM) which is Canada’s official measure of poverty. The MBM uses local data on things like food shelter and transportation and determines a threshold that would give a family of four a modest, basic standard of living. If your household income is less than the MBM, you’re considered to be living in income poverty or under the poverty line. Using this threshold, the government of Canada established a target to reduce poverty by 50% by 2030 using 2015 as a baseline. Canada achieved its target early, reducing poverty by 56% in 2020, but this was mostly because of temporary pandemic benefits and more recently, numbers have been increasing. 

Calgary’s MBM was the highest of major cities in Canada. This means that basic necessities in our city cost more than every other major city in Canada, including Vancouver and Toronto. Below are the top five cities and their MBM threshold in dollars.

Chart of 5 MBMs listed

Source: Statistics Canada. Table 11-10-0066-01 Market Basket Measure (MBM) thresholds for the reference family by Market Basket Measure region, component and base year

If you’re wondering how costs in Vancouver and Toronto can be so similar to Calgary, you’re not alone. These are questions that VCC will be asking over the coming weeks as we continue to explore affordability in our city.

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