Twenty Years of Consumer Price Changes in B.C....A Closer Look at the Biggest Price Increases

The figure below shows price indexes for selected consumer products in B.C. over the past 20 years. It tells us which items/services have seen the largest price increases.

Among all consumer items, the biggest price jump has been for water. Since 1998 what households pay for municipal water services has more than tripled (recall that the overall consumer price index rose by only 40% over the same period). Gasoline and post-secondary tuition have had the biggest price increases, followed by property taxes and home insurance. The costs of public transportation, electricity and vehicle insurance have also risen well ahead of inflation.

What is interesting is that many of the largest cost increases consumers have had to absorb are for services delivered by the public sector. In the municipal space, the costs of water and property taxes have soared. Tuition is up 140%, with public education accounting for much of this. Vehicle insurance (ICBC plays a dominant role here) is also up sharply, as is the cost to take a bus or Skytrain.

Figure 1

B.C. Consumer Price Indexes, Selected Goods & Services, 1998=100

Source: Statistics Canada, Consumer Price Index, table number 18-10-0004-01.

The next figure shows the increase in residential property taxes across all of the provinces over the same twenty-year period. Among the ten provinces, Alberta homeowners endured the biggest increase in property taxes. With property taxes doubling over the past two decades, B.C. and New Brunswick have also seen outsized increases. Down at the bottom of the rankings, in Quebec and Manitoba property taxes have climbed by a more modest 50%.

Figure 2

Property Tax Price Indexes by Province, 1998=100

Source: Statistics Canada, Consumer Price Index, table number 18-10-0004-01.