Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New Research Shows Ontario cities have most expensive daycare costs in Canada

Research by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows Brampton, Toronto, Mississauga and London to have the least affordable daycare in the country. Torstar News Service
For Eitan Grinspun, daycare debt is the new student loan.

“It’s just the most important thing I can give my child” says the father of 3-year old twins.

“It’s not about the college fund. It’s about giving them the right start.”

But for the Toronto-based dad and his partner, the right start for their kids costs $3,000 a month. That reality has recently forced the couple to take out a loan to cover the expense, in a city where spaces are scarce and waitlists long.

“I see parents all the time when we go outside to play in the playground. And you (can) see the desperation – like, how did you get there, what did you do?” says Grinspun.

Sky-high day care costs are no secret to GTA parents, but a new study reveals for the first time how their fees fare in comparison to other Canadian cities.

Research by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows Brampton, Toronto, Mississauga and London to be the least affordable in the country.

In Toronto, parents with kids under two can expect to pay $1,676 a month for the service. In contrast, that cost is $152 for parents in cities across Quebec. In Winnipeg, the next cheapest city, families spend about $650.

“Quebec has 7 dollar a day childcare, which is very different to the situation you find everywhere else in the country,” says CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald, a co-author of the report.

“The other province that has capped fees is Manitoba, and therefore you see Winnipeg in every one of the other measures as the next most affordable place to put your children. And this is due to a substantial subsidy programme both in Quebec as well as in Manitoba.”

“What this report makes clear is that provincial policy really makes a difference,” says Carolyn Fearns, of the Ontario Coalition for Better Childcare.

“Four of the five highest fees are in Ontario, and that should be a wake up call.”

Fearns says addressing affordability was “key” to the Ontario government’s renewed efforts to modernize childcare in the province.

In July, the government introduced a new bill aiming to increase the number of available spaces in licensed care in Ontario, and to improve regulation of unlicensed daycare. Currently only around 20 percent of children in the province are in regulated care settings.

In Toronto, Mayor John Tory has said little about his childcare plans for city other than to acknowledge that more needed to be done to “support Toronto families.” He also pledged to work with the ‎provincial and federal governments to “ensure they do their part.”

Olivia Chow, who landed a distant third in the race, had promised to invest $15 million to create 3000 new childcare spaces in the city.

Monday’s CCPA report also created an “affordability index” that focused specifically on childcare costs as a percentage of women’s income.

The research found that although Toronto childcare costs are the highest in absolute terms, women in Brampton are seeing the greatest chunk of their income eaten up by childcare costs – around 36%.

Toronto follows closely though, and women there can still expect to spend over a third of their income on daycare.

“The burden of childcare particularly in the first few years of life fall disproportionately on women” explains Macdonald of the CCPA.

“The connection to childcare is that when given an affordable choice as in the case in Quebec, women will choose to work.”

A 2008 report showed that Quebec’s affordable, universal childcare policy resulted in almost 70,000 more women joining the labour force. It also concluded that Quebec’s gross domestic product was 1.7% higher as a result.

Childcare policy will also take centre stage at a gathering of activists, policymakers, and parents in Winnipeg this week. The ChildCare2020 conference is the first cross-Canada gathering on the subject in a decade, and will push for a nationwide strategy on affordable, good quality care.

For Grinspun, there is no more important challenge. His own experiences with the childcare system in Ontario have inspired him to return to school to study early childhood education. And after a hard-fought battle, his kids are now in a daycare they love.

“It’s so sad when I can see people looking for other alternatives, and some of them are really, really dodgy,” he says. “But you can’t blame parents, because what else can they do? They can’t compromise their own work, so they have nothing.”

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