New study reveals the most and least affordable Canadian cities for child care

November 10, 2014

OTTAWA—A new study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) reveals the most and least affordable cities for child care in Canada.

The study examines, for the first time, median unsubsidized child care fees in Canada’s biggest 22 cities for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. It also develops an affordability index that compares those fees to the median income of women aged 25 to 34 in that city.

“Affordable child care is an important issue not just for parents, it’s important for Canada’s economy. When parents are given an affordable child care option, as in Quebec, they overwhelmingly choose to work,” says one of the study’s co-authors and CCPA senior economist David Macdonald. 

Among the study’s findings:

  • Toronto has the highest fees in all three age categories.
  • Brampton is the least affordable city in Canada for child care, with fees accounting for 36% of a woman’s income, the equivalent of four months’ worth of work.
  • Toronto, London, Windsor, and Surrey are close behind Brampton in being relatively unaffordable. In these cities, women can expect to see 34% to 35% of their annual income consumed by child care fees.
  • Quebec’s provincial policies, particularly low daily fees, have made it dramatically cheaper for parents to place children in child care.
  • The most affordable city is Gatineau, where child care takes up 4% of a woman’s income, which is paid for in only two weeks’ worth of work.
  • Laval, Montreal, Longueil, and Quebec City are also among the country’s most affordable cities for child care. Women in those cities spend between 5% and 6% of their income on child care fees, or about one month’s worth of work.

Provincial policies that set fees directly and that define regulations have a significant impact on child care fees. The regulated nature of child care means that provincial policies will generally have a more substantial impact on fees than market forces.

“More than three-quarters of mothers with children under the age of six are part of Canada’s labour force,” says Martha Friendly, co-author and Executive Director of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit. “But despite the high concentration of mothers who work, Canada ranks second last in the OECD in government spending on early childhood education and care.”


The Parent Trap: Child Care Fees in Canada’s Big Cities is available on the CCPA website.

For more information contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Senior Communications Officer, at 613-563-1341 x306.