A city west of Toronto has been named the least affordable place in Canada for regulated daycare.
The study, titled The Parent Trap and released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, says childcare rates in Brampton, Ont., are the most disproportionate in the country.
Although other Canadian cities may have higher overall childcare costs, the study found that those who live in Brampton, 50 kilometres northwest of Toronto, had the highest daycare costs in comparison with wages.
Specifically, it found that median yearly daycare fees in Brampton were equivalent to 36 per cent of a woman’s income, or some four months worth of work.
The most affordable city for childcare was Gatineau, Que., near Ottawa, with fees amounting to only four per cent of a women’s income, or the equivalent of two weeks worth of salary to pay off a year’s worth of daycare.
Overall, the study looked at median childcare fees in 22 of Canada’s largest cities for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. In all of the categories, those who live in Toronto paid the highest amount to put their children in daycare, though not the most in relation to incomes.
When it came to infant care, it found that fees for children under 18 months were the most expensive.
Torontonians paid the highest amount to put an infant into daycare at an average of $1,676 a month. Those in St. John’s, N.L., paid the second-highest amount at $1,394 a month.
Not surprisingly, those in Quebec cities paid the lowest fees in the country due to province-wide government subsidies that cap daycare costs at $7.30 a day per child.
The most affordable cities for infant daycare were Gatineau, Laval, Montreal, Longueuil and Quebec City, where it costs parents $152 a month. The second most affordable city for infant childcare was Winnipeg, with an average monthly cost of $651, also due to a province-wide cap on fees.
The study found that, in general, there were more available daycare spots as children got older. Those who looked to put toddlers aged 18 months to three years into daycare found nearly twice as many spaces as those seeking spots for infants.
Once again, parents in Toronto paid the highest toddler childcare rates in the country, at an average of $1,324 a month, followed by those who live in Vancouver, Burnaby, B.C., London, Ont, Brampton, Ont., and Mississauga, Ont., with fees just over $1,000 a month.
The least expensive cities for toddler childcare were in Quebec, where it costs $152 a month, and then Winnipeg at $451 a month.
Lastly, preschool spaces for children over three years old were the least expensive, and most abundant, of all the categories. Toronto parents paid the highest fees at an average of $998 a month, followed by Calgary, London, Ont., Brampton, Ont., Mississauga, Ont., and Ottawa at just over $900 a month.
Quebec residents again paid the lowest at $152 a month.
The study’s co-author, David Macdonald, said the data, which was acquired from cities and regions in late 2013 and 2014, show that the cities with the most affordable daycare rates were those that offered subsidies.
“The reason why you have $7.30 a day daycare is because the government’s supporting it,” he said in an interview. “It’s pretty clear looking at cities in Canada that the ones that have affordable daycare are the ones in Quebec.”
Macdonald, who wrote the report with Martha Friendly, said government regulations can also play a role in lowering costs for childcare. For example, governments can relax the requirements on how many workers are needed for each child or lessen the education requirements for childcare workers. This can result in lower salaries and can reduce the overall cost.
But in general, the most efficient way to reduce daycare costs is to provide subsidies or put in place a cap on fees to ensure they’re in line with salaries.
Macdonald said the study compared childcare costs with women’s incomes because mothers were more likely to take paid leave to care for children, more likely to work part-time due to childcare issues, and more likely to take days off work to care for sick children.
“Unfortunately, most childcare costs fall on women,” he said. “When you make childcare more affordable, you give women a real choice on whether they want to work or not.”
The rising cost of daycare has been a hot-button topic both federally and provincially.
Last month, the federal New Democrats said that if elected they would spend $5 billion a year to create a million daycare spaces that would charge no more than $15 a day.
The idea of a national child-care program was first proposed in 2005 by Paul Martin’s Liberal government. At the time, it said that it too would spend $5 billion for the program, which was scrapped when the Conservative government was elected. The idea was replaced with the universal child care benefit, which gives parents $100 a month for every child under the age of six.
Meanwhile, last week, the Quebec government hinted that it’s considering doing away with its universal daycare program and replacing it with new fees based on family income.