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

December 10, 2015

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

The study examines median unsubsidized child care fees in Canada's biggest 27 cities for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, as well as the different subsidization regimes that reduce costs for low-income families. It finds Canada's child care systems can vary dramatically from province to province and city to city, but two things hold true in nearly all places: child care is expensive and regulated spaces are hard to find.

"There is a huge variation in the cost of child care between Canadian cities, which verges on the absurd when you compare the $987 per month Ottawa parents pay for a preschool space that costs just $174 per month across the river in Gatineau," says CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald. "While child care is a provincial responsibility, there is clearly room for federal leadership and funding to close the large differences in fees and availability across Canada."

Among the study's findings:

  • Toronto has the highest fees in Canada for infants, toddlers or preschoolers.
  • A couple in Toronto with a toddler and a preschooler pays $28,300 in annual child care fees. That's equal to 48% of the median family after-tax income for families with children in that city.
  • The seven most expensive cities for preschooler care are all in Ontario (Toronto, Markham, Ottawa, Vaughan, Mississauga, Brampton, and London).
  • At $174 a month across all age categories, fees were lowest in the cities of Gatineau, Laval, Montreal, Longueuil, and Quebec City.
  • Quebec, Manitoba, and PEI are the only provinces that cap child care fees and make up the difference for all families through core transfers to services.
  • Since last year, child care fees have increased by 5% on average, or five times the rate of inflation. Fees have increased $56 a month in Toronto since 2014 and $22 a month in Quebec cities.
  • In spite of high child care fees, child care workers have some of the lowest average wages of any occupation. Even working full time, early child care educators and home care providers earn $25,000 and $18,000 a year, respectively.

The high cost of child care is just part of the challenge facing parents. Even where families can afford to pay for child care they will often face long waiting lists due to significant shortfalls in available spaces. There are currently close to a million children in Canada whose parents could use regulated care if more spaces were available.

"Being able to access affordable, high quality child care should not be an accident of birth. Instead, it should be available to all Canadian families," says Macdonald.


They Go Up So Fast: Child Care Fees in Canada 2015 is available on the CCPA website:

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