Study reveals highest and lowest child care fees in Canadian cities in 2018

Impacts of new provincial affordability policies offer lessons for decision makers
February 7, 2019

OTTAWA —A new study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) updates the ranking of most and least expensive cities for child care in Canada. Fees have risen faster than inflation in 61% of cities since 2017, although in 2018, the number of provinces with policies directly targeting fee affordability has doubled.

The study, the fifth in a series, provides an annual snapshot of median parental child care fees in Canada’s 28 biggest cities for full-time regulated child care of infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Fees were surveyed between May-August 2018.

“For the first time in five years we are seeing movement, with more provinces using public policy to make child care more affordable. But these bright spots are overshadowed by the fact that fees in Canada remain astronomical, outpacing inflation in most cities,” says study co-author and CCPA senior economist David Macdonald. “It’s clear public policy matters for affordability, but it’s also clear that much more needs to be done.”

Among the study’s main findings:

  • Cities in and around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Metro Vancouver continue to have the highest fees for infants. Toronto tops the list at $1,685 a month or $20,220 a year. Mississauga and Kitchener follow at more than $1,490 a month. Infant fees in Vancouver were $1,400 a month;

  • Preschooler spaces, the most numerous type, are most expensive in Toronto with a median fee of $1,150 a month, but close behind at around $1,000 are: Ontario cities of Brampton, Mississauga, Vaughan, Markham, London, Kitchener and Ottawa; Calgary (AB); and Vancouver (BC);

  • No matter the age category, fees remain lowest in all Quebec cities at under $200 a month, followed by Winnipeg and Charlottetown—all in the three provinces that have had set fees for years. In addition, Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta and British Columbia also implemented policies directly targeting high parent fees in 2018;

  • St. John’s (NL) saw a 13% drop in median preschool fees as almost half of its centres are taking part in its new set-fee system;

  • There has been a substantial and rapid expansion of market-priced centres in Quebec. These represent 1/3 of spaces in most Quebec cities, and are charging between two and three times set fees even after the provincial tax credit. This is the first ever examination of child care fees in Quebec’s market-priced sector;

  • Quebec cities also experienced median fee increases slightly higher than inflation;

  • Waitlists remain common in almost all cities, as do wait list fees outside Ontario (which banned them in 2017).

“This year’s report offers a critical look not at only at child care fees across Canada, but the potential challenges and pitfalls governments need to consider when designing programs to improve the affordability of care,” adds report co-author Martha Friendly, executive director of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit. “Building on current initiatives, and with continued government support based on the best available evidence, provinces/territories can hopefully create a foundation for continuing to expand affordability in the future.”


Developmental Milestones: Child care fees in Canada’s big cities 2018 is available for download on the CCPA website. For more information contact Alyssa O’Dell, CCPA Media and Public Relations: 613-563-1341 x307, or