A report released by our National Office this week confirms what many parents already know: BC is one of Canada’s most expensive provinces for child care, especially for younger age groups (infants and toddlers).
Cities in the Greater Toronto and Metro Vancouver stand out as the most expensive places in the country to access child care, but fees are unaffordable in most provinces and they are rising much faster than general inflation.
The differences in how much parents pay for child care fees across Canada are staggering. Provinces where child care is left largely to market forces have considerably higher fees than those that have taken measures to promote affordability.
For example, Quebec’s public, universal, low-fee child care program charges less than $200 per month in fees for the typical family. Manitoba and PEI have also prioritized affordability for families and provide significant operational funding for child care facilities, which means relatively low fees.
On the other hand, many low- and middle-income families in BC struggle to afford child care fees on top of rapidly rising housing costs. And to make matters worse, families that can afford the fees often have few options, since most child care centres have wait lists and quality tends to be inconsistent.
The result is a growing number of BC families scrambling to pay fees and settling for unlicensed child care options with little monitoring or oversight, as well as parents—mostly mothers—forced to stay home because they can’t afford to return to work.
A growing number of BC families are scrambling to pay fees and settling for unlicensed child care options, and many parents—mostly mothers—are forced to stay home because they can’t afford to return to work.
In BC, child care fees tend to be lowest in Surrey and highest in Vancouver, with Richmond and Burnaby charging similar fees in between. When it comes to preschool-aged children, Richmond is the most expensive BC city for child care with a median fee of $980/month, slightly higher than Vancouver’s $950/month. Fees for preschool-aged children are considerably cheaper in Burnaby ($840/month) and Surrey ($800/month). However, even in Surrey parents pay nearly $10,000 a year for preschool programs—roughly five times more than in Montreal.
This is why BC families need our provincial government to follow through on its commitment to invest in affordable, quality child care and early childhood education in communities across the province.
The widely endorsed $10-a-Day child care plan shows how the existing patchwork of services can be transformed into an integrated child care system that meets the needs of BC families. Once fully implemented, the $10-a-Day plan would lower fees to about $220/month, which is lower than most provinces except Quebec. Such a move would save BC parents between $7,500 and $14,000 per year, depending on the city they live in and the age of their child.
For families with young children, this would mean more economic security, better quality of life, less debt and more women being able to re-enter the workforce or get training and education upgrades to secure family-supporting jobs. The ripple effects would be felt throughout the economy.
Building an affordable, quality, universal child care system may well be the investment with the single greatest impact that BC’s new government can make.