07/12/2011 11:20 EDT | Updated 09/11/2011 05:12 EDT

Toronto Bumps Vancouver As Most Expensive Canadian City

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THE CANADIAN PRESS -- TORONTO - Toronto tops the list of the most expensive places to live in Canada for expatriates, and a soaring loonie has driven up prices in other cities across the country as well, according to a survey by consulting firm Mercer.

The annual survey -- which looks at items like housing, transport, food, clothing and entertainment -- indicates higher rents helped Toronto surpass Vancouver as the Canadian city with the highest cost of living.

Toronto now ranks as the 59th most expensive city in the world, while Vancouver ranks six places lower.

The survey points to Ottawa as Canada's cheapest big city to live in, ranking 114th in the world. Montreal and Calgary take 79th and 96th place respectively.

The cost of living survey is designed to help companies and governments figure out compensation allowances for expatriate employees. The cost of housing plays a big part in the ranking because it is often the largest expense for expatriates.

The most expensive cities in the world for expatriates are Luanda, Angola, and Tokyo, with N'Djamena, Chad, Moscow, and Geneva rounding out the top five. The cities in Angola and Chad are expensive because there is a low availability of safe housing for foreigners, a Mercer spokeswoman said.

There were 214 cities on the list, with Karachi, Pakistan coming out as the world's least expensive city for expatriates. The majority of cities in the top 20 were in Europe and Asia.

Eleana Rodriguez, who is in charge of the information products solutions department at Mercer, said Canadian cities fall relatively low on the list, which means that cost of living in the country won't generally deter companies from sending expatriate workers.

"Particularly in Toronto's case, given the fact that this is a global city with a multicultural population, on a relative basis, it's not very high on the list," she said.

She added that although the data doesn't specifically look at the cost of living for locals, the information can also provide a window into their cost of living.

"Since we do take a look at the cost of goods and services in a given city, there is a relationship between that information for expatriates and that information for local nationals, but the survey is really intended for expatriate compensation," she said.

The firm said higher gas prices contributed to rising consumer costs, but many cities in North America dropped down the global rankings as regions such as Australia felt a stronger burden.

New York is used as the base city for comparisons, which helped Canadian cities move up the list because the loonie is compared to the U.S. dollar than it was during the survey period last year.