Cost of child care up by 20% in some cities since 2014, report finds

The cost of child care is rising quickly in Canada, in some cities increasing by as much as 20 per cent from three years ago.

Median cost for infant care in Toronto is $1,758 a month

Toronto continues to have the most expensive child care options in Canada, for all age groups. (Nick Ut/Associated Press)

The cost of child care is rising quickly in Canada, in some cities increasing by as much as 20 per cent from three years ago and more than 10 per cent in most of Canada.

That's a key finding in the fourth annual report on the topic from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a think-tank with offices across Canada.

Researchers from the CCPA gathered information from regulated full-day licensed child-care centres and licensed child-care homes in 28 markets across Canada, using fees charged between June and October of this year.

The results were eye opening.

Fees rise faster than inflation

Fees have risen faster than inflation in 71 per cent of markets compared to last year.  And the gap is widening between cities with the highest and lowest prices, a trend observed in the group's previous reports. 

"Child-care fees in most of Canada are still outpacing inflation and for many they were too expensive to begin with," CCPA senior economist David Macdonald said.

Three provinces — Quebec, Manitoba and P.E.I. — regulate maximum fees for child care and prices those markets tend to be lower. Quebec's fees are the same regardless of the child's age, while the other two provinces charge more for infants and toddlers, as is the case elsewhere.

In the report, children up to the age of two are considered infants. Parents in Toronto pay more than anyone else in the country for infant care with a median fee of $1,758 a month. That's $21,096 a year.

Median means half of the prices are lower and half are higher.

"A young middle-income family living in Toronto with an infant and a three-year-old would be faced with a monthly bill of almost $3,000 (or $36,000 a year) for regulated child care," the paper said, and that's "if they were able to find a space."

Fees for other age groups also rose, but aren't quite as high. The median day-care cost in Toronto for toddlers between 18 months and three years old is of $1,354.

Vancouver came next at $1,292, followed by its suburbs Richmond and Burnaby. The Toronto-area markets of Mississauga, Vaughan and Brampton all had fees above $1,100 a month.

That compares with Montreal where monthly child care costs $168 a month through a government-regulated program.

Since 2014, the CCPA report calculates that preschool child-care costs have increased by 21 per cent in Toronto, by 19 per cent in Edmonton, by nine per cent in Vancouver and by six per cent in Ottawa.

In virtually every city, the median price for preschool stayed the same or increased last year. In only three places — St John's, Burnaby and Calgary — did the cost decrease.

Aside from costs, finding a spot is no easy feat as wait lists are "almost universal " in big cities and prevalent in almost three-quarters of all markets included in the report.

No wait-list fees in Ontario

Wait-list fees, however — where a child-minding service will charge money just to put you on the wait list — are on the decline. The government of Ontario outlawed such fees last year, but they are still prevalent in many cities in British Columbia and Alberta. 

Almost one in five child care programs in Vancouver charge a wait-list fee, the CCPA found.

The research was done as increases in minimum wage in B.C., Ontario and Alberta are set to have a direct impact on child-care fees.