The decade in B.C. prices: What costs more and what costs less
While many items have risen in cost, the price of some goods has actually dropped
With the end of the decade almost here, British Columbians can reflect on some of the ways price changes have hampered or helped their daily lives.
Data from Statistics Canada's Consumer Price Index over 10 years shows some sharp price changes in goods and services. While many essential products have gotten more expensive, there are some exceptions.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures price increases for a fixed basket of goods and services. With that data, analysts can then attempt to parse economic or industry-specific trends that drive inflation.
Taylor Mitchell, lead analyst at Statistics Canada, says the Consumer Price Index helps researchers like her "isolate as much as possible the sources of price changes from month to month."
The latest full year we have data for is 2018, so these cost increases cover 2008 to 2018 to mark a full decade.
The CPI's average increase — which is weighted to give prominence to items Canadians spend more on, such as gas — was 14 per cent over that time frame.
Meanwhile, the growth in median income across B.C. was 12 per cent from 2005 to 2015. (Those numbers are tied to the census, which is why they don't match the same 10 years as the CPI.)
One of the categories where British Columbians are likely to have noticed the biggest change is the cost of food and beverages.
Mitchell says the increase in fresh produce and meat has been noted across the country over the past decade.
The main factors driving the increase, she says, are exchange rates (because most of our produce come from the U.S.), transportation prices, and difficulties with growing seasons driven by inclement weather.
Lucas Herrenbrueck, an economics professor at Simon Fraser University, said another factor driving the increased cost could be a rise in incomes.
"We know that the wealthier you are the more you will probably spend on the freshness of your food," Herrenbrueck said.
Another large price increase in B.C. over the past decade was for utilities such as internet and electricity.
The widely reported increase in internet access costs over the past decade appears as an 83 per cent hike in the CPI — a number all the more striking when one considers that it's been adjusted for increases in bandwidth and data.
British Columbians are also paying more to get around. Again, any gain in quality is accounted for in the cost increase.
It will surprise no one to know that people in Metro Vancouver are paying a lot more for housing.
Note that the rental cost noted below is for secondary rental housing, not purpose-built rental housing.
Purpose-built rental housing has also increased, up 46 per cent for an average two-bedroom apartment — to $1,652 in 2018 from $1,131 in 2008.
It may surprise some British Columbians to learn some prices have actually dropped since 2008.
Herrenbrueck says people tend to notice when prices go up, but not when they go down.
"You don't really notice the things that happened in your favour," he said.
The decrease in prices of consumer goods is most likely due to better international trade in the past decade, Herrenbrueck said, especially as shipping from overseas markets has gotten cheaper.
He warns, though, that a drop in prices doesn't benefit everyone.
"If gas prices go down then that's good for people who commute but bad for people in the oil patch," he said, as an example.