In general, all types of child care in Canada (except Quebec) are primarily paid for by parents, with some provinces/territories paying some direct operating costs of regulated child care (which reduces parent fees). Quebec, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island all set province-wide parent fees in some or most regulated child care.
In unregulated child care...
Parents pay the full cost out of pocket. The Child Care Expense Deduction can be claimed for these costs on the income tax form if a receipt is available from the caregiver.
Parent fees for regulated child care vary considerably. Fees depend on the child’s age, whether care is full- or part-time, and on how much public funding there is from the specific province/ territory.
Infant/toddler care in some instances may cost more than $1,800 a month, while in Quebec maximum parent fees are less than $500 a month for the wealthiest parents.
All provinces/territories except Quebec subsidize eligible low-income families to replace some or all of the parent fees in regulated child care. In Quebec, most of the cost of regulated child care is covered by funds paid directly to child care programs by the Quebec government.
Fee subsidies are mostly administered by provincial/territorial governments, while Ontario subsidies are administered by local (municipal or regional) governments.
Things to know about fee subsidies
- In most provinces/territories, eligible parents can access a subsidy if they can find a regulated space.
- In almost all provinces/territories, only regulated child care can be subsidized.
- Subsidies are always paid directly to the child care service, not the parent.
- In a number of provinces/territories, the value of the subsidy may be less than the fee for the space. This means parents—even very low-income parents—may have to pay an additional amount out of pocket. The amount can be considerable.
- Ontario subsidies may cover the full cost of child care but are in short supply, with long local subsidy waiting lists for eligible parents.
Other public funds for child care
- The Child Care Expense Deduction (CCED) is calculated as a tax deduction on the income tax form; the value varies by income and may be available for children up to age 14.
Provincial/territorial governments provide some public funds directly to regulated child care programs to help offset ongoing costs such as staff wages.
- The more a province or territory contributes directly to child care programs, the more fees can be lowered without sacrificing quality.
- All provinces/territories use some of their funding for child care in this way but there is considerable variation, sometimes even within a specific province or territory. This is a good part of the reason for the very wide range of parent fees across Canada.
- Three provinces—Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Manitoba—set maximum parent fees.