A guide for parents in Canada

The state of child care in Canada

Early childhood education and care in Canada 2014 - cover image

Since the early 1990s, the Childcare Resource and Research Unit (CRRU) has been tracking the state of early childhood education and child care in Canada. The results were regularly published by CRRU; each report included a historical overview, political and administrative arrangements as well as detailed information about ECEC in each province/territory (all these publications are available online). See the most recent detailed history and overview in Early childhood education and care in Canada 2014.


The most recent summary of trends in CRRU's The state of early childhood education and care in Canada 2012 is included below. References and sources are available in the full publication.

Growth in regulated child care spaces has slowed to a low point
The supply of regulated child care centre spaces for 0-5 year olds grew only 0.7% between 2010 and 2012 while regulated spaces (including family child care) for 0-12 year olds grew by only 0.6%. Even during the limited growth years after 2006, space increases had never dropped below 1%.

Trends in Aboriginal child care
Twenty-six percent of off-reserve Aboriginal children (2006) and 13.8% of on-reserve First Nations children (2002) 0-5 years were in centre-based child care.

There has been some improvement in child care human resource issues
Wages for program staff rose between 1998 and 2012 (after adjusting for inflation) in all jurisdictions except Ontario, where they dropped slightly. Wages, however, continue to be low; in 2012 the median wage for child care program staff was only 69% of the average wage in Canada.           

Public funding for child care has modestly increased
Public spending for ECEC in Canada continues to be very low when compared to need/demand and to international benchmarks. There were modest increases in budget allocations in actual dollars for regulated child care in every province/territory except British Columbia between 2009/10 and 2011/12 (BC’s allocation decreased by $363,000 in actual dollars).

Parent fees are often higher than university tuition
The range of parent fees by jurisdiction is enormous, ranging (for an infant) from $1,824/year in Quebec to more than $12,000/year in Ontario – almost seven times as much. Median monthly parent fees across Canada were $761 for infant care, $701 for toddlers and $674 for preschoolers in 2012 (Quebec is included in the calculations).

For-profit child care is expanding at a greater rate than non-profit child care
‘‘Auspice" or ownership of child care has historically been a key concern in early childhood education and care in Canada. The data show that in Canada as a whole, for-profit expansion in child care continues to outpace expansion of not-for-profit services. Between 2010 and 2012, 58% of space expansion was in the for-profit sector, bringing the proportion of spaces in the for-profit sector to nearly 30% of total Canada-wide centre spaces, the highest level since CRRU started collecting these data in 1992.

Shift from community/social services to education ministries across Canada
By 2012, six provinces/territories had moved responsibility for child care into their ministries of education, with Nova Scotia becoming the seventh jurisdiction to do so in 2013/14.

More in this category: « Who pays?