The Great Canadian Rip-Off

Canadian Money - lraine.sxc.hu

Canada, so I was told before moving, is 30% cheaper than the UK. Maybe that referred to their taste in wines, because it certainly doesn't refer to the cost of living.

Preparing for the negotiations of my relocation package, I did the responsible thing and looked up comparisons of the cost of living in London and Toronto. As a result, I had reliably established that the latter would be about 30% cheaper than my old home. The source for this information was a report by a major accountancy firm. (Ever since Enron, I should know better than to trust anything that comes from one of those.)

Everybody knows that London is a rather expensive city to live in, but realistically, when you go out to grab something for lunch to bring back to your desk, the damage is rarely bigger than £5. In Toronto, it quickly transpired that you can't get by on less than a Canadian tenner. At the going rate, that is about £6, which in my book is a surcharge of 20% rather than a 30% discount. In London, our cleaner was £10/hour. In Canada, she's C$20. Two litres of milk? Less than £2 in the UK, C$5 in the provinces.

There is no need to reiterate the well-documented example of the two beers for C$28, but since this was a corporate-style sporting event, things are expected to come at a premium. Not so, you would expect, when you go grocery shopping.

My wife brought back two (small) steaks, which the (grocery store) butcher had highly recommended for the beef being grass fed and not having been treated with antibiotics. When finding them in the fridge with the price tag of C$30 still attached to them, I was the one ready to be treated, not with antibiotics, but at least with antidepressants. Surprising, also, how the absence of medication increases the price of a product. Maybe that is socialised health care for you.

Not only in comparison to the UK, Maple Leaf nation comes across rather expensive. Our magazine subscriptions arrive with imprints of the sort "4.95 USD / 5.95 CAD" when the Canadian Dollar is close to parity with the USD. That makes the 90-minute trip across the border all the more appealing and unsurprisingly so, the parking lot of the closest US Wal-Mart shows an abundance of Ontario license plates on weekends.

Maybe, by some miracle, the GBP will make a recovery and climb back to the jolly heights of C$2 to the £1 which, of course, would make my daily sandwich so much cheaper in comparison. Since, however, my bonus is nowadays CAD denominated, I would have to buy a lot of sandwiches before we move back across the Atlantic to get the benefit of that.