A man walks his daughter to daycare on a rainy morning in Montreal on October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Daycare fees are rising, but report says many centres may close due to pandemic

Daycare fees are rising, but report says many centres may close due to pandemic

OTTAWA — Daycare providers across the country are finding themselves in dire financial straits, as the pandemic exposed how overly reliant the system is on soaring parental fees, says a report on the cost of child care in Canada.

The annual report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found daycare costs continued to climb across most of the nation last year, with annual increases ranging between one per cent in places like Ottawa, Regina and Halifax, up to 21 per cent in Brampton, Ont.

Four cities surveyed showed overall small price declines: Vancouver, Moncton, Whitehorse and Yellowknife.

Few of the daycares surveyed said they increased fees due to COVID-19.

Many daycares across the country were forced to close during the first wave of the pandemic, causing disruptions in parents’ working lives and a drop in their ranks in the workforce.

The report, however, found that once reopened, there was a drop in enrolment that in some cases was so severe that centres lost 20 to 30 children, winding up with fewer than five enrolled.

Wait lists, too, seemed to vanish as many centres reported suddenly having spaces for children.

Now, daycares are on the verge of closing without parental fees coming in, which the authors of the report said poses a problem for an economic recovery the federal Liberals will have to address in their promised child-care policy.

In every city outside of Quebec, which has its own publicly funded system, child care centres had on average 10 per cent fewer children in the fall of 2020 than in February of last year, pre-pandemic. The report said daycares in 27 of the 37 cities surveyed on average reported enrolment drops of upwards of 20 per cent.

The reasons for the drops had to do with a combination of factors, including fewer staff and parental concerns about health and safety.

What the survey found as well was that the higher the fees, the more likely parents were to take their children out of care. The opposite was the case where fees were lower, said report co-author David Macdonald.

He said a similar effect was noticed when it came to unemployment: as the job losses rose, enrolment dropped.

“If this drop in enrolment does start to affect the amount of spaces that are available, then it becomes a drag on those local economies where you’re seeing these big drop-offs in enrolment,” said Macdonald, a senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“But also (it becomes) a drag on the national economy as it becomes harder for parents to find spaces for their kids, so they can go back to work or look for a job, or go back into retraining.”

The Liberals have promised the upcoming federal budget will lay out a plan to create a national child-care system, arguing it is necessary to help more parents get back in, and remain in the workforce.

Statistics Canada says that between February of this year and the same month last year, employment fell by 4.5 per cent for core-aged parents, meaning those 25 to 54, whose youngest child was under six.

That meant 104,800 fewer parents with daycare-aged children in the workforce 12 months into the pandemic. For those whose youngest is between six and 12 years old, employment was up 1.6 per cent from February 2020. None of the figures the agency provided are adjusted for seasonal variations in employment.

The promised national daycare system, which would be voluntary for use and publicly funded, has garnered backing from business groups. The House of Commons finance committee recommended in its pre-budget report that the government allocate $2 billion towards a national system this year.

A spokeswoman for Families Minister Ahmed Hussen said the report “reiterates what we already know: high quality, affordable child care is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.” Mikaela Harrison said the government remained committed to create a Canada-wide early learning and child-care system.

Crafting a plan for how to use that money will first need to shore up what is already available so it isn’t lost before moving to expand the number of available spaces, said Martha Friendly, one of the report’s authors.

There is also a need to train and retain staff and fund services directly to drive down fees to make prices more affordable, she said.

“If we’re going to build a childcare system, we think it’s imperative to try to preserve what we’ve got because it took years to build up the services and it will put us so much further behind if they actually disappear,” said Friendly, executive director for the Childcare Resource and Research Unit in Toronto.

Cardus, a faith-based think tank, argues a national system should be as flexible as possible to give latitude to local officials and parents to figure out what works best. Respondents to a recent survey commissioned by Cardus were almost split about whether public funding should go to spaces or parents.

“Parents have diverse care needs, especially during the pandemic,” said Peter Jon Mitchell, the group’s family program director, in a release. “Public policy should offer flexibility and respect families’ choices.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2021.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Daycare

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins (Photo contributed)
Federal budget strangles job growth, says MP Blaine Calkins

‘It is most certainly not a balanced budget’

Kids at Lotsa’Tots West Day Care in Red Deer act out how a caterpillar moves with co-owner and instructor Shireen Sewcharran-Wiebe. Child care providers are hoping Alberta’s provincial government will help fund the national child care program announced this week. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Alberta day care providers hope Alberta will get onboard with national child care program

Some question whether the UCP’s ideology will stand in the way

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney shakes hands with Jason Nixon, minister of Environment and Parks after being sworn into office, in Edmonton on Tuesday April 30, 2019. Town council from the largest municipality in Nixon's constituency is concerned over the province's consultation plans for open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Town of Rocky Mountain House wants better coal consultation

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE, Alta. — Town council from the largest municipality in… Continue reading

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange was in Red Deer on Friday to provide an update on the province's COVID-19 response in schools.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Alberta government aiming for more financial literacy learning in junior and senior high schools

Government providing grants to organizations who will help design financial literacy programming

Two roundabouts will be built at each end of the Highway 2 and McKenzie Road overpass in Red Deer County at the south end of Gasoline Alley. Major detours will be in place this summer while construction is underway. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Powerline work causes delays on Highway 2 in Red Deer

Southbound drivers on the QEII are experiencing delays Wednesday morning. Powerline work… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks at a television screen as he listens to United States President Joe Biden deliver a statement during a virtual joint statement following a virtual meeting in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘We hope to help a little more’: Biden says he spoke to Trudeau about more vaccines

WASHINGTON — Canada can look forward to an unexpected shot in the… Continue reading

The Mission Correctional Institution in Mission, B.C. is pictured Tuesday, April 14, 2020. A new federal study found that people released from prison were much more likely than the general population to have trouble finding gainful employment, even over a decade after returning to society. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Ease employment hurdles for former prison inmates, federal study urges

OTTAWA — A new federal study found that people released from prison… Continue reading

Governor of the Bank of Canada Tiff Macklem holds a press conference at the Bank Of Canada in Ottawa on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Bank of Canada keeps rate on hold, sees brighter economic outlook

OTTAWA — The Bank of Canada is keeping its key interest rate… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. Tam says new information on COVID-19 and variants prompted the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to suddenly cancel its planned update on who should get the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
AstraZeneca advice from national panel delayed by new data on COVID-19 and variants

OTTAWA — Canada’s chief public health officer says new information on COVID-19… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks at a television screen as he listens to United States President Joe Biden deliver a statement during a virtual joint statement following a virtual meeting in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pressured to adopt tougher emissions target for Biden climate summit

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under pressure to step up… Continue reading

Passengers from Air India flight 187 from New Delhi wait for their transportation to quarantine after arriving at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Wednesday, April 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
ICU pressures mount as COVID fells younger people; Ottawa mulls India travel ban

TORONTO — Amid mounting pressures on critical care in hospitals and concerns… Continue reading

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland delivers the federal budget in the House of Commons as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on in Ottawa on Monday April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Three confidence votes to determine fate of minority Liberal government

OTTAWA — A pair of proposed changes to the federal budget put… Continue reading

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland talks with parents during a virtual discussion on child care in Ottawa, Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Freeland is calling for patience and “flexibility” in response to questions about the government’s criteria for reopening the economy and border. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Freeland urges patience as business looks for answers on reopening border, economy

OTTAWA — Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is urging Canadian companies to… Continue reading

Most Read