Skip to main content

Time out: Child care fees in Canada 2017

Printer-friendly version
Macdonald, David & Friendly, Martha
Publication Date: 
12 Dec 2017



This study is the latest in a series of studies conducted annually since 2014 including The Parent Trap (2014), They Go Up So Fast (2015) and A Growing Concern (2016).

Infant fees are, not surprisingly, generally the highest of the three age groups. Ontario cities had the highest infant fees, with Toronto having the highest median full-time centre-based and regulated home child care infant fees in the country at $1,758 a month, or $21,096 annually. Second highest was Mississauga (ON), where parents pay at the median $1,452 a month, followed closely by another Greater Toronto Area (GTA) city, Vaughan (ON), with median fees of $1,415. The infant fees in Montreal are $168 a month - 10 times cheaper than Toronto's - while the next four cities of Gatineau, Laval, Longueuil and Quebec City are at $183 a month.

Quebec, Manitoba and PEI all fund child care operationally, which al- lows them to set more affordable maximum child care fees provincially. As a result, cities in those provinces generally have the lowest parental fees. Quebec's set fees are the same regardless of the child's age, while Manitoba's and PEI's set fees are - like parent fees in the market-based cities - higher for infants and toddlers.

Toddler fees are highest in Toronto, with a full-time space costing $1,354 a month, or $16,248 a year. Vancouver's toddler fees are second highest, with parents paying $1,292 a month, and Mississauga (ON), Burnaby (BC) and Richmond (BC) tying for third most expensive for toddlers at $1,200 a month. Least expensive again is Montreal, with a toddler space costing $168 a month, followed by Gatineau, Laval, Longueuil and Quebec City, all with median fees of $183 a month.

Child care spaces for preschool-aged children make up the largest group of regulated spaces by far, and preschoolers are much more likely to be in centres, not home child care. Here, again, Toronto is the most expensive city in the country, with full-time median preschool fees of $1,212 a month or $14,544 annually. In fact, Toronto has the unfortunate designation as the most ex- pensive city in Canada for child care across all age groups. Mississauga (ON) and Brampton (ON) are next highest for preschoolers, with median fees of $1,052 and $1,050 respectively. Montreal has the lowest fees at $168, followed by Gatineau, Laval, Longueuil and Quebec City, where fees are $183 a month.

Richmond (BC) reports the largest increase in preschooler fees since 2016 - 12% or an additional $105 a month - which is 10 times the rate of inflation. In fact, 71% of the cities surveyed in 2017 saw their fees rise fast- er than inflation in the past year.

Since 2014, preschool fees have risen faster than inflation in 82% of the cities surveyed. Over the past three years, Toronto has seen the largest pre- school fee increase of $214 a month or 21.4% - six times faster than inflation.

This 2017 survey is the first time we have surveyed child care fees out- side the largest cities. Surveying all fees in rural child care centres and regulated home child care in Ontario and in one area in eastern rural Alberta shows that fees are - contrary to expectations - not particularly low; they are mostly in the mid-range compared to median city fees across the country. Fees tend to be similar to those in nearby cities. Thus, for example, pre- school fees in central rural Ontario ($911 a month) are not much different than those found in the nearby city of Hamilton ($931 a month).

Wait lists for child care tend to be almost universal in big cities. They are slightly less common in Calgary and Edmonton, although their prevalence has risen since last year. St. John's (NL), Saint John (NB), Markham (ON) and Vaughan (ON) also have fewer centres maintaining a wait list than they did last year.

The prevalence of wait list fees has also declined dramatically since last year. Interestingly, although the Ontario government prohibited them in 2016, they persist in several Ontario cities. In British Columbia, a trend away from wait list fees appears to be occurring, although unlike in Ontario, it is not attributable to public policy.

The data shows that policy matters when it comes to parental fees with provinces providing operational funding consistently showing the lowest fees. Without doubt, child care fees in most of Canada are far too expensive for many. While the ongoing child care fee data is filling an important gap, fees are only part of the puzzle of how parents are coping with finding care for their children.

Important findings 

• The Greater Toronto Area and Metro Vancouver have the highest fees for infants. Toronto has the highest infant fees, at $1,758 a month or $21,096 a year. Mississauga (ON) and Vaughan (ON) follow at over $1,400 a month;

• Preschooler spaces, the most numerous type, have a median fee in Toronto of $1,212 a month, but close behind at around $1,000 a month are: Mississauga (ON), Brampton (ON), Vaughan (ON), Markham (ON), London (ON), Ottawa (ON), Calgary (AB), Richmond (BC), Kitchener (ON) and Vancouver (BC);

• Since 2014, preschool fees rose the most in Toronto, six times faster than inflation (21.4%). Since 2016, Richmond (BC) saw the biggest hike in preschool fees: up 12%, or 10 times faster than inflation;

• Cities in Quebec continue to have the lowest fees across all age categories: $168 a month in Montreal and $183 a month in Gatineau, Laval, Longueuil, and Quebec City;

• New data for rural Ontario and Alberta show fees in those areas are not significantly cheaper than in nearby cities;

• The lowest fees are consistently in the cities of Quebec, Winnipeg and Charlottetown. Here governments set low fees and provide direct grants to providers, using public policy to prioritize affordable child care;

• Most of the cities surveyed reportedthat at least 70% of child care centres maintained waiting lists, although wait list fees are on the decline.

Organization Response

Child Care Now (formerly CCAAC)

Related links

Metro Morning: Childcare phone-in

Child-care costs in Canada rose faster than inflation in 2017

Child-care fee hikes outpace inflation with Toronto parents hardest hit

Good news for child-care costs in St. John's? Not so fast, say daycare owner, parent

Entered Date: 
12 Dec 2017
Premium Drupal Themes by Adaptivethemes