Cross Country Checkup·Updated

Why is the solution to affordable daycare in Canada so elusive?

It's the Daycare Dilemma, as parents still struggle to find the right support. The federal budget set aside $7 billion for child-care across the country... but how will that work? Why is the daycare solution so elusive?
Children put up their hands for ice cream at a daycare centre in Montreal. (Ian Barrett/Canadian Press)

For so many working families in this country, it's called the Daycare Dilemma. Even before their child is born, they add the family's name to daycare waiting lists.Then, the wait begins.

Sometimes it can take six months, a year, and sometimes, longer. That wait can be followed by sticker shock when parents find out how much daycare will cost. Depending on where you live, the annual cost of daycare can be more than university tuition. It's an issue that hits families in the heart and the wallet.

There is a patchwork of daycare solutions across the country from Quebec's $7-a-day universal childcare to provinces where there's a mix of private and public daycare with subsidies for families with lower incomes.

In B.C, daycare is a hot-button election topic right now with battlelines drawn over the NDP's proposal for $10-a-day child-care. Earlier this month, Alberta announced a pilot for a $25-a-day child-care program. And, the city of Toronto just released a report calling for 30,000 new daycare spaces by 2026 at a cost of  $2.5 billion.

Ottawa has promised to do it's part. The federal budget recently set aside $7 billion to make more child-care spaces available across the country. But those billions need divvying up between provinces and territories, and will be stretched over ten years. Will parents see shorter waitlists and capped fees any time soon?

Our question today: Why is the solution to affordable daycare in Canada so elusive?


Sarah Ehrhardt and Munizah Salman, two mothers who have struggled to find daycares for their children.

Andrea Mrozek, Program Director of Cardus Family and former Executive Director at the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. 

Louis Senécal, CEO of the Quebec childcare association (AQCPE) L'Association Québécoise des Centres de la petite enfance. Twitter: @aqcpe

Gordon Cleveland, Associate Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto. He is a specialist in the economics of child care and child-care policy. He has also advised federal, provincial and municipal governments and nonprofit organizations across Canada. 

The live online chat: 

What we're reading

Globe and Mail

Financial Post

Toronto Star

Edmonton Journal

Winnipeg Free Press

Studies (mentioned in media)

Additional Research