Report: Half of Canada’s young children still live in child care deserts due to shortage of licensed spaces

Lowering fees to $10-a-day is a good plan, but parents are still hard-pressed to find licensed spaces
May 16, 2023


OTTAWA—With 48 per cent of younger children living in postal codes that have a shortage of licensed child care spaces, the next phase of Canada’s $10-a-day child care plan must significantly ramp up expansion, says a new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

In Not done yet: $10-a-day child care requires addressing Canada’s child care deserts, CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald and the Childcare Resource and Research Unit’s Martha Friendly examined 759,000 full-time licensed child care spaces for younger children who aren’t yet in kindergarten and found a substantial shortage of spaces across Canada, except for Quebec and P.E.I.

“With 48 per cent of younger children living in child care deserts, we need a rapid expansion of child care spaces through a collaborative effort to ensure that an adequate number of qualified early childhood educators (ECEs) are available to staff them,” says Macdonald. “Thankfully, the federal government has lowered parent fees for licensed child care at warp speed over the past two years, but when it comes to creating new quality child care spaces, it’s more like a horse-and-buggy show—something all levels of government need to fix and quickly.

“For more families to benefit from affordable child care, governments need to address the shortage of spaces—especially in provinces like Saskatchewan, where 92 per cent of children live in child care deserts, and Alberta, where 61 per cent of children live in child care deserts.”

The range of child care coverage rates varies widely by city. In the 50 cities examined, there are seven licensed spaces for every 10 younger children in Whitehorse, Charlottetown, and the island of Montreal while there are only two spaces for every 10 children in Saskatoon, Regina, Kitchener, and Vancouver.

“If making high quality child care accessible to all Canadian families is our goal,” says Friendly, “then purposeful expansion of public, and not-for-profit licensed child care is the only way to ensure that the child care deserts in which half of Canada’s younger children live become a thing of the past. This must go hand-in hand with a full workforce strategy so there are qualified staff to resource new spaces.”

As demand for child care has risen with the federally funded fee reduction in 2022 and the post-pandemic return to work, making child care accessible, high quality and inclusive will require that federal, provincial, territorial, Indigenous and municipal governments come together with civil society, child care community partners, and parents to address the shortage of child care coverage in Canada.

Not done yet is available at:

For more information and interviews please contact Amanda Klang, CCPA Senior Communications Specialist (Media & PR) at [email protected] or cell: 514 996 3515.