Parents in the Greater Toronto Area stand to save the most under the Liberals’ new child-care plan, according to a new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a progressive think tank.
Parents of infants in the city of Toronto would save nearly $12,000 a year by 2022, and nearly $20,000 a year by 2026. The median cost of an infant in full-day child care was over $22,000 a year in Toronto in 2020, according to a previous analysis by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).
In the 2021 budget, the federal government promised nearly $30 billion over five years to cut child-care fees in half by 2022, and to offer $10-a-day child care by 2026.
Families in municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) — such as Mississauga, Brampton, and Richmond Hill — would save about $10,000 a year by 2022, and about $16,000 per year by 2026, the CCPA says. The median cost of an infant in full-day child care in GTA municipalities ranges from about $17,000 to $19,000.
The savings were calculated by looking at the fees charged by thousands of child-care centres across the country, then comparing the current median cost to the government’s intention to lower fees by 50 per cent by 2022, before bringing them down to $10 a day by 2026.
Outside the GTA, families in the Greater Vancouver Area, Calgary, and Nunavut will also enjoy big savings, the report says — from $10,000 to $14,000 a year, if the $10-per-day promise is fulfilled by 2026.
Because of an existing subsidy, parents in Manitoba and P.E.I. pay the lowest fees in Canada outside Quebec.
In Winnipeg, parents pay nearly $8,000 a year for infant care, and just over $5,000 for toddler and preschooler care. In Charlottetown, parents shell out nearly $9,000 per year for an infant, and just over $7,000 for a toddler or preschooler.
The study shows “the tremendous savings that would be enjoyed by parents, particularly of young children,” if the child-care plan is fully implemented, said David Macdonald, a senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and the author of the report, speaking to iPolitics on Thursday.
Previous plans — including Paul Martin’s $5-billion proposal in 2005, which was signed by all 10 provinces — have been “dashed upon the rocks of elections,” and the current Liberal plan could suffer the same fate, Macdonald said.
Caring for an infant costs more than caring for a toddler or preschooler because younger children require more staff, the report says. While the savings fall as the child ages, parents still stand to save thousands of dollars per year, regardless of the child’s age.
Provinces use different definitions for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Generally, however, infants are defined as 0 to 18 months, toddlers are up to three years old, and preschoolers are three to five.
Besides using taxpayer dollars to lower fees, the plan’s success depends on having enough spaces to meet demand, as well as properly trained and compensated workers, Macdonald said.
The agreements that Ottawa has signed so far with B.C. and Nova Scotia have considered those prerequisites, Macdonald said.
“(They’ve) certainly been included in the rough agreements (with Nova Scotia and B.C.) so far,” Macdonald said, but he’s waiting for feedback from their implementation committees “before determining whether (Ottawa is) taking the right approach.”
In Tuesday’s deal with Nova Scotia, Ottawa agreed to spend nearly $11 million to improve the wages and training of early-childhood educators (ECEs) in the province.
“Pay rates for ECEs are pretty low,” so without higher wages, there’s a danger that child-care workers will leave in droves once the program is set up, thereby lowering quality of care, he said.
The savings described in the report are dependent, however, on the federal and provincial governments negotiating and actually implementing the plans. British Columbia and Nova Scotia have set up their own implementation committees. Some provinces jumped at the offer once the budget was released, while others weren’t as keen.
Ottawa has so far signed agreements with B.C. and Nova Scotia. Other provinces and territories have expressed interest, mainly the Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador, according to Families, Children, and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen, speaking to iPolitics in April. No province is in “outright opposition,” he said.
“Virtually all of them are very much eager to sit down and negotiate,” Hussen said. “And some of them are outright saying, ‘Where do I sign? When do I sign?’ ”
Governments in Ontario, Alberta, and New Brunswick were the most critical.
“Ontario needs long-term financial support that is flexible, to respond to the unique needs of every parent, not a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce in a post-budget statement in April.
“What I really want to make sure is that there’s flexibility, so we can meet the unique needs of Alberta child-care operators and Alberta parents,” said Alberta Minister of Children’s Services Rebecca Schulz in April.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, also speaking in April, called Ottawa’s child-care promise a “great election ploy.”