Child care crunch

Rising cost of child care impacting parents, says GBC Parent Association founder

The cost of child care is something working parents shudder to see. Or for that matter, college students with children.

A recent report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) details just how challenging the cost of child care has become in some Canadian cities. Overall, fees have increased faster than inflation in 71 per cent of the country’s 28 biggest cities since last year. 

But no place has been hit harder than Toronto, which ranks the highest in the country in all age groups according the report. Over the past three years, rates for preschoolers (2.5 to 4 years in Ontario) have climbed faster in Toronto than anywhere else in the country to a median of $1,212 a month, or $14,544 annually. For infants, median child care costs $1,758 per month, ten-times more expensive than the same age group in Montreal, which costs $168 a month.  

CCPA senior economist David Macdonald said that the difference in affordability between cities like Toronto and Montreal is whether the market or government sets the rates of child care.  

“What makes fees a lot more affordable is if the province sets the fees and makes up the difference to providers through direct operational support,” Macdonald said. “That’s going to be the case in Manitoba, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island.” 

Macdonald also said that it’s tough for folks in Toronto to find affordable child care, and that most of the market cities have had their fees rising much faster than inflation.

For Shana Kealey, who founded the GBC (George Brown) Parent Association, the challenges of finding and child care can mean changing life plans.

“I can’t tell you the amount of inner suburb mothers that, be it a single mother, or a mother in a family unit that foregoes their plans because it’s just not financially viable for them to get a job or to go to school,” she said. “People actually are forced into the decision of staying home to do child care.”

Another obstacle for students searching for child care options is simply availability. According to a 2016 City of Toronto study on child care affordability and demand, the supply of licensed child care spaces was short by 7,316 in 2015.    

George Brown College operates 12 child care across the city, including one at the Casa Loma campus. But spaces are limited.

For Kealey, the purpose of the GBC Parent Association was to raise awareness of the issues facing parents. But she said that a more structured system of child care is required to make changes.

“We don’t really have a system right now. We have a patchwork scenario from city to city, rural to urban, it’s all very different,” Kealey said. 

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Child care crunch