Geography and Cost

I have now lived in three different cities for over a year in Canada and what always surprises me is the cost of things. I know  and expect that climate will change between cities, as the further away B is from A, the less B has to do with A. So I knew that Regina would have a different climate than Moose Jaw (60 km apart) and I really knew that Ottawa would have a very different climate than either Regina or Moose Jaw.

What surprised me was how different the prices could be.

Gas is a great example. Say it was 95 cents a litre in Moose Jaw, it would be $1 in Regina and 80 cents a litre in Ottawa. I can understand why Ottawa is cheaper, larger population and we’re much closer to a huge part of Canada’s overall population – the Windsor – Quebec City corridor. But why on earth would gas be 5% lower in Moose Jaw than 60 km further west? Is it just that much closer to refineries? It can’t be population as Moose Jaw only has 35,000 people and Regina has about 190,000.

It’s competition.

Moose Jaw got a Safeway gas bar where you could get 3.5 cents off the listed gas price if you had a Safeway Club card. Every other gas station in town started offering the same deal, only without a card. (Superstore has been doing 5 cents back in SuperBucks for a long time but no one apparently cared. It’s on the edge of town, to be fair and the results aren’t immediate.) This caused an interesting issue when Wal-Mart decided to test its gas bar in Moose Jaw. They pulled it out after about 8 months, as again, it was on the edge of town and it didn’t offer the same 3.5 cents off that everyone else did. Was it cheaper? Yup, it still was. It wasn’t cheap enough that they were bringing in the cash revenue that they wanted so it was ripped up faster than I expected.

So I have been living in Ottawa for two years now and I just recently went to the dentist. My dentist here was raised and educated in Saskatoon and yet his prices are higher than anyone I have ever seen in Saskatchewan. Reasoning? I honestly don’t know. Housing costs are becoming more and more similar as prices rise in Moose Jaw and Regina. I have even been to dentists in malls before, like this guy in Carlingwood. It just seems more expensive and no one that I know can tell me if this is so or if it’s just me comparing it to cheap Regina.

After I’d been here for about 5 or so months, a friend of mine asked if I thought things were cheaper here. And generally, I don’t. Gas is cheaper, but I don’t know if anything else is. Clothing seems to be the same, food seems to be more expensive, which again surprises me. Again, it’s not the amount of people so I don’t understand why something like milk always seems to be more expensive here than Regina. I am wondering if there are websites dedicated to user collected data on this. Write up an iPhone/Android/Blackberry app that allows users to go into a store or restaurant or wherever and type in prices. Milk, 4L, 2%, $5.99 type thing. It would be a great idea for a geography/economics thesis.

2 Replies to “Geography and Cost

  1. I find when I go to Toronto or Montréal, things are a lot cheaper there too. Significantly more competition, but it’s also a major hub for shipping things (whereas Ottawa is not, we’re an armpit of Ontario)

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