Study reveals the most and least expensive cities for child care in 2016

December 12, 2016

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

The study, the third in a series beginning in 2014, provides an annual snapshot of median parental child care fees in Canada’s biggest 28 cities for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. It finds that wait lists are common for regulated child care, which is more expensive than it was two years ago, with fees rising an average of over 8% since 2014—three times faster than inflation.

“It will be no surprise to many parents that regulated child care is expensive, but what is most shocking is that in many cities fees have risen much faster than inflation since 2014,” says CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald. “This can amount to parents paying a $1,000 more a year per child than they did just two years ago.”

Among the study’s findings:

  • Toronto has the highest fees for infants ($1,649 a month), toddlers ($1,375 a month), and preschoolers ($1,150 a month). Kitchener, Calgary, Vaughan, Markham, Ottawa, Mississauga, and London are not far behind, with monthly preschool fees close to $1,000 a month.
  • A middle-income family in Toronto with an infant and a toddler would pay $36,000 a year for regulated child care—more than the cost of university tuition.
  • Cities in Quebec continue to have the lowest fees across all age categories ($164 a month in Montreal and $179 a month in Gatineau, Laval, Longueuil, and Quebec City). However, Gatineau, Laval, Longueuil, and Quebec City had the largest percentage increase in fees, at 18% since 2014.
  • Wait lists are a common feature of centre-based care, with almost all the cities surveyed reporting that at least 70% of centres maintain a wait list.
  • Almost half of Vancouver centres charge a wait list fee, along with a third of Richmond centres. Ontario banned the practice in September.
  • Despite subsidies to offset fees for low-income families, out-of-pocket fees remain high in many cities. Saskatoon and Calgary have out-of-pocket fees of almost $500 a month for a preschooler. Ontario has the lowest out-of-pocket fees for a model subsidy-eligible family at $90 a month.

“Child care fees vary predictably across the country based on provincial policy. They are lowest in provinces that set the fees and higher in the cities that are market driven,” says Martha Friendly, Executive Director of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit. “That policy matters for affordability is a clear takeaway from this research as federal, provincial, and territorial governments work towards a national framework for early learning and child care.”


A Growing Concern: 2016 child care fees in Canada’s big cities is available on the CCPA website.

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