Families driven out of Toronto by sky-high daycare rates

With daycare fees substantially higher in Toronto than anywhere else in Canada, some families are getting out of the city, opting for smaller communities where child-care costs are sometimes half what they are in Toronto.

Toronto daycare costs highest in Canada and rising fast, study shows

Rob, Juniper and Kathleen Kahlon in Caledon East. The family had to leave Toronto to find daycare they could afford. (Kathleen Kahlon)

Before her daughter was born, Kathleen Kahlon did what a lot of Toronto parents do — she added the family's name to daycare waiting lists.

Relief was quickly followed by shock a year-and-a-half later when she got the first call from a centre with a spot for Juniper. The cost for the daycare would be $2,100 a month.

Our daycare costs were almost as much as our mortgage.- Kathleen Kahlon

She eventually secured a spot in Leaside but, at $1,800 a month, "our daycare costs were almost as much as our mortgage," Kahlon told CBC Toronto.

Even with a double income, with her career in communications and her husband working as a teacher, she remembers that "it was definitely a struggle."

Toronto's high daycare costs forced mom to move out of city

6 years ago
Duration 1:51
Kathleen Kahlon says Toronto's high daycare costs forced her family to move to Caledon.

Their experience mirrors data that the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released in a study on Monday.

A Growing Concern: 2016 Child Care Fees in Canada's Big Cities lists Toronto as not only the most expensive city in Canada for daycare, but with rates substantially higher for all three levels of care — infant, toddler and preschool.

"A young middle-income family with an infant and a three-year-old living in Toronto would be faced with a monthly bill of almost $3,000 (or $36,000 a year) for regulated child care if they were able to find a space," co-authors David Macdonald and Martha Friendly wrote.

And it's that type of expense that is driving families like Kahlon's out of the city.

About a year ago her family moved to Caledon East, where they now pay about $900 a month for daycare.

Though both parents have an hour-and-a-half daily commute, Kahlon said the move was worth it.

"My current daycare is a 10-minute walk from our house through beautiful trails. It's a two-minute drive from our house," she said.

Chrissy Morrow made a similar decision.

A single mom by choice, Morrow is quick to describe herself as "a Toronto kid born and raised," but she says the only way to afford a family was to move.

How do you stay in a city that was yours when you can't afford to?- Chrissy Morrow

"It's your choice to have children, but it's also a pretty natural choice that a lot of people make," she said. "How do you stay in a city that was yours when you can't afford to?"

Her son, Matthew, will be a year old in just over a week and he's registered to start at a daycare close to their home in Pickering in January.

"The price just went up from when I first registered him nine months ago, but it's going to be about $1,100 a month here, whereas in Toronto it would have been about $2,000 a month," she said.

Adding insult to injury, one of the study's authors, David Macdonald, told CBC Toronto's Metro Morning that the cost of daycare in Toronto has gone up six times the rate of inflation in the last couple of years.

"Young families today with a preschooler pay $150 more a month on average than they would have just two years ago," he said. "Really a substantial increase to the fees in addition to Toronto already having very high fees."

For the Kahlon family, daycare cost was one of the factors in deciding to have only one child.

"I can't imagine having more than one child in daycare. I don't know how families do it," Kahlon said.

Friendly said Toronto daycare centres have to pay more for employees — for retention and for bigger staff because there are more children enrolled.

Macdonald also pointed to Toronto's "pure market-driven system" as a reason for the high costs.

In Quebec City, daycare costs about $180 a month, he said. There, as well as in Manitoba and PEI, the provinces set the fees and make up the difference.

"The take-away from this study is if you want childcare to be affordable you do it by setting the fees and funding the services," study co-author Friendly said.

With files from Metro Morning