Child care fee survey shows that the right government action can make it affordable

This year’s survey of child care fees in Canadian cities reads like a parable for affordable child care. CCNow Executive Director Morna Ballantyne says contained within the 43 page report — the sixth issued by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives — are both examples of how to make child care affordable and cautionary tales of how not to. 

Quite beyond the initial shock of some of the numbers (spoiler alert: if you want infant care in Toronto you’ll have to find almost $25,000 a year) there is a clear indication of what works and what doesn’t.

“What makes child care more affordable is direct government funding of services at a level that covers the increasing costs of service provision combined with government set fees at a level that families can afford,” Ballantyne says. “It’s also the only way to guarantee that the real cost of service provision, and the cost of improving quality, can be covered without raising parent fees even more.”

The study reports that jurisdictions that leave fees unregulated and provide support to parents through tax credits or subsidies — rather than funding childcare centres directly — have higher fees and fewer spaces. Also, patchwork government programs aimed at reducing parents’ daycare bills by providing a rebate or other fee reduction do not necessarily make child care more affordable if those providing the services are allowed to raise their fees, or if the reduced fee is still very high.

The study also found that for-profit providers generally charge higher parent fees than not-for-profit providers.

“The fees continue to be impossibly high for almost all families, outside of Quebec,” Ballantyne said. “The evidence is clear that the problem can be fixed with the right government action: set fees so that they are affordable and make sure that the services get the public funding they need to operate high quality programs and keep up with the rising costs of service delivery.”