Victoria tops list of most expensive cities for groceries: study

We know life isn’t cheap in these parts — but B.C.’s capital, Victoria, has come out as the most expensive city in Canada when it comes to buying groceries.

Transportation costs are being blamed for pushing prices up in Victoria, according to food distribution expert Sylvain Charlebois, the director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.

His team, in partnership with Better Cart, looked at what a typical grocery cart looks like across the country.

“Everything on the island is expensive. Typically, when you live an on island, it tends to push prices higher, so I wasn’t overly surprised. The logistics to get food there, if you’re not producing the food on the island, it becomes very expensive,” he told CityNews.

While this research only looked at prices for groceries in Canada’s major urban centres, there are many remote communities that see costs well above the levels indicated in this study. These costs tend to disproportionately affect Indigenous populations in Canada in those areas.

Still, while food does tend to be pricey in B.C. generally, Charlebois says we do benefit from a better selection, which he credits, in part, to Asian and other influences, referring to it as a “mosaic of food.”

“I’ve been to B.C. many times and you guys have variety,” he explained. “It is expensive, I get it, but you have a lot of variety.”

The latest research from Charlebois and his team has been looking at food prices nationally — analyzing “the typical food basket” purchased in the various major cities in Canada.

That includes the price of things like protein (including chicken, pork, beef, and eggs), produce (such as the most popular ones — leafy greens, tomatoes, celery, and onions), as well as other staples (pasta, soups, beans, and more).

A few dessert items were also included in the analysis, which accounts for a “typical family of four’s” haul over two days.

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“[Statistics Canada] doesn’t really have that kind of data, unfortunately, but now we do and we were able to compare,” he explained.

While Victoria tops the list as the priciest city to grocery shop in, Charlebois notes it’s not by much.

However, he admits prices are up across the board, and likely won’t see any relief next year.

Charlebois points out Charlottetown — another island community — is also seeing prices rise, though the bridge to the P.E.I. city helps keep them from skyrocketing.

“There is no bridge to Victoria, there is no bridge to (Vancouver) Island — the only way to get there is by boat or on a plane,” he said.

Other expensive B.C. cities including Vancouver, which may come as no surprise to many. However, Charlebois says it still falls behind Victoria.

The full report is expected to be released on Monday.

-With files from Sonia Aslam

Editor’s note: CityNews has added context to this story to acknowledge the research is focused on Canada’s urban centres and that prices tend to be higher in some remote communities.

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