A new report assessing the status of the federal government’s $10-a-day child-care policy has found the country is “making solid progress.”
All provinces and territories agreed to meet a cost reduction of 50 per cent by December 2022. The full implementation of $10-a-day child care is set for 2025 to 2026.
“These are ambitious goals and they won’t happen overnight,” Jenna Sudds, minister of families, children and social development, told CTVNews.ca in an interview. “But I continue to see examples every week of the progress that we’re making.”
The CCPA conducted 11,000 phone calls with licensed child-care providers between March 14 and May 3, 2023. The report summarized fees by city using the median, which means there could be “variation” of costs for parents across the country.
It found that of 32 cities committed to cutting fees by 50 per cent, 18 achieved the target. Furthermore, about one-fifth and one-quarter of the 32 cities — depending on the age group — reduced fees by 40 to 47 per cent respectively.
Five of the jurisdictions have already reached the $10-a-day child-care goal, the report notes.
“Broadly, this is a good news story, we have had a fair success in terms of reducing fees,” David Macdonald, senior economist at CCPA and co-author of the report, told CTVNews.ca in an interview. “Given the speed at which this federal program got going, I’d say we’ve made good success so far.”
However, some cities, including Calgary, Burnaby, B.C., Richmond, B.C. and Surrey, B.C., that did not reach the first benchmark by December 2022 missed the target by a “bigger margin.”
WHICH PLACES DID NOT HIT THE TARGET?
Minister Sudds said it’s “to be expected” there are variations in fee reductions across the country.
The expectations for the provinces and territories included three parts: fee reduction, the creation of child-care spaces and support for the workforce.
“Some will be further ahead on space creation, some will be further ahead on fees, for example,” she said. “Ultimately, all of these objectives need to be met by 2025 to 2026.”
British Columbia expanded its $10-a-day care but missed the December 2022 target, only reaching a 44 per cent cost reduction.
The median fees in Richmond, B.C., were the highest for children under 18 months and toddler care in Canada at $905 a month, the report shows. However, this is a large reduction from the previous median of $1,200 a month parents paid in 2019.
Alberta also “fell short” of the first federal target.
“Several high-fee Calgary centres did not participate in the program, putting upward pressure on the median despite the fee reductions,” the report reads.
Calgary centres cost parents a median fee of $780 per month in 2023, a reduction from the fee of $1,300 in 2020, but still not under the 50 per cent reduction target for the under-18-month age group.
The city charged a median fee of $838 for toddlers and $810 for school-aged children, which represent the second highest and highest fees in Canada for those age groups.
“There are some cities or communities still within the country where the median fee is higher than the target of 50 per cent,” Sudds said. “I think we’re seeing that because in those communities, there’s a higher proportion of for-profit care that has opted out of the system. We continue to work with the provinces and territories to ensure that childcare centres — whether they be for-profit or not-for-profit — are well informed of the program benefits.”
MANY AREAS CUT COSTS BY 50 PER CENT OR MORE
Many municipalities across Canada have improved child-care costs, the data shows.
Quebec has achieved child care for under $10 a day for several years and should be seen as an example, Sudds said.
“There’s lots to be learned from Quebec and that’s exactly what we tried to embrace as we worked with the other provinces and territories on building this national system,” she said.
However, despite every other jurisdiction decreasing fees, the province ended up increasing the median fee from $8.25 a day to $8.85 for all age groups since 2019.
“Therefore, while median fees are seven per cent higher than 2019’s, they are still the lowest fees Canada-wide in 2023,” the report reads.
Ontario managed to cut costs by 52.75 per cent for centre and family child-care fees by March 2022, with most cities achieving a reduction of 50 per cent by December.
However, several cities in the Greater Toronto Area had “near-misses” when it came to the target, but the costs are “much lower” than in 2020, the report notes.
Toronto has median fees of $903 a month, while Markham, Ont., is the third most expensive city in Canada for child care, with a median cost of $818 a month for children under 18 months.
Newfoundland and Labrador was able to set its fees to $10 a day, reaching the 2025 target three years early after initially reducing fees by half for toddler/preschool-age child-care centres.
Saskatchewan followed a similar path, first cutting fees by more than 50 per cent — depending on the age group — then setting the maximum $10 a day three years early, the report reads.
Nunavut child-care centres had one of the largest reductions due to previously having some of the highest costs in the country. In 2019, Iqaluit’s median fees were $1,300 a month.
The territorial government implemented the $10-a-day fees at the end of 2022, resulting in an 82 per cent drop in price for centres in Iqaluit — “the largest reduction of any city in Canada.”
The Yukon also achieved the final target well before the federal policy came into effect. Prior to the federal program, the territorial government achieved a universal child care system costing less than $10 a day on average in the spring of 2021.
Some cities in the Northwest Territories achieved a reduction in fees for all age groups by December 2022 but, similar to Ontario, there are some high-priced centres.
EXPANSION THE KEY TO PROGRAM SUCCESS
Despite several initial successes in implementing the program, Gordon Cleveland, associate professor of economics at the University of Toronto-Scarborough, said expanding the number of child-care spaces is also important.
“What’s the easiest part to do? The answer is to lower the fee,” Cleveland told CTVNews.ca in an interview. “Because all you have to do is give the existing providers money that they would otherwise have received from the parents. So as long as you have enough money to do that, and the federal government did put up lots of money, then you can lower the fee.”
What is more difficult, he said, is ensuring more child-care spaces are created and that wages are high enough to attract the staff needed to meet the demand for all families across Canada.
“This program is not really successful, until lots of people that couldn’t get into child care before are able to get into child care,” Cleveland said. “And that’s not yet happening in a big way.”
The report notes expanding not-for-profit centres is one of the ways more parents can have access to child care, but Cleveland said, many of these organizations don’t have the infrastructure or capacity to build more centres independently.
“You actually have to do quite a lot at the governmental level, to make it possible for the non-profits to expand,” he said. “So all of these provinces and territories have promised that there will be majority not-for-profit expansion and almost none — there’s a couple of exceptions — are doing enough to make that happen.”
To successfully expand, Cleveland said governments also need to focus on improving wages for workers.
“You just can’t get the recruitment without an increase in wages,” he said.
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