The cost of living is measured by the Consumer Price Index. Currently 2002 is used as the base year for the CPI at a base of $100. Subsequent CPI numbers indicate how much one would have to spent in a subsequent year to match what you could buy for $100 in 2002. The number for subsequent years is always higher than 100.
If you want to read a clear explanation of what CPI is read this from the Bank of Canada.
For comparative purposes, how does Edmonton rank?
From 2009 through 2013, Edmonton has ranked as the highest or second highest in terms of CPI, when compared to other major cities.
In Edmonton, it cost $129.00 in 2013 to purchase the same items that cost $100 in 2002, nearly $10.00 more than in Vancouver. Although not shown on the bar graph, the CPI in Edmonton in 2013 was higher than in Victoria and Yellowknife, two communities one might expect to have a higher cost of living due to the former being on an island and the latter being more isolated than most communities.
I was surprised that Edmonton is experiencing a higher CPI than Vancouver. For some reason I had assumed it cost a lot more to live in the city by the ocean. That said, it is true that, for example, between 2000 and 2010, the increase in rental costs in Edmonton averaged around 75%. Despite the often mentioned higher income trends in Edmonton, it is safe to say that renters have not experienced 75% growth in income during that same period.
In the midst of incredible growth in the Edmonton economy, which includes billions of dollars in capital development (the new arena, the Museum, the recent Art Gallery development, the new City hi-rise and so on), it is also true that three-quarters of the jobs in Alberta’s capital city are in low paying industries like retail and food services. The economic challenges facing Edmonton citizens are deeper and more complex than just looking an the unemployment and poverty rates. We have a greater percentage of the population struggling to just get by from one pay cheque to the next.
So when voices celebrate our strong economy, one has to ask whose voices are speaking. My guess it’s not the 75% of people working in low paying jobs.
We need an economy that works for the majority. Don’t we?