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Child-care fees are widely different depending on where you live

Richmond has the most expensive median fees for infant care while Vancouver has the highest ratio of $10-a-day spaces, according to a new report.

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Despite promises by the federal and provincial governments for universal $10-a-day daycare, parents are paying widely different fees depending on where they live, according to a new report.

And while B.C. got a head start gradually rolling out $10-a-day daycare spaces in 2019, it’s now lagging behind five other provinces that have made $10-a-day child care universal, the report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) found.

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The report, Measuring Matters: Assessing Canada’s Progress Toward $10-a-day Child Care for All, surveyed licensed child care in 37 cities to evaluate how many of them hit two federal targets: halving daycare fees by December 2022 and attaining an average fee of $10-a-day by 2026.

In B.C., Vancouver leads with the largest expansion of $10-a-day spaces since 2019; they make up a third of the city’s child-care spaces.

The $10-a-day spaces, coupled with a fee reduction that brought most spaces down to an average of $21-a-day, reduced median fees by 44 per cent. Child-care centres can apply to the B.C. government to be selected as a $10-a-day site.

However, the expansion of $10-a-day spaces was more limited in Richmond, Burnaby, Surrey and Kelowna, the report found.

In B.C., infant and toddler care remains the most expensive in Richmond with a median of $900 a month for full-time care. Preschool is also the most expensive in Richmond at $800 a month, while it’s $600 a month in Burnaby and Surrey.

The report’s authors, CCPA senior economist David Macdonald and child-care researcher Martha Friendly, said the price gap could be explained by a higher proportion of for-profit child care centres in Surrey, Burnaby and Richmond.

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The report found child-care fees are lowest in provinces that have adopted universal $10-a-day daycare, including Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nunavut.

“The federal government created a fast-tracked plan of halving fees by December 2022, and the provinces and territories mostly delivered — except Alberta, B.C. and P.E.I.,” Macdonald wrote.

B.C. has gradually expanded the number of daycares subsidized so that parents pay $10-a-day or just over $200 a month. There are now 13,200 $10-a-day child care spaces, which amounts to about 10 per cent of daycare spots.

Critics have previously raised concerns about an uneven distribution of $10-a-day spaces across B.C. with proportionally more parents in Metro Vancouver and Greater Victoria receiving savings than parents in parts of the Okanagan and the Interior.

An additional 96,000 child-care spots have been subsidized through provincial and federal funding, which brings prices to an average of $21-a-day, down from $53 a day. The savings vary depending on what kind of child care parents are enrolled in but the most a parent can save is $550 a month if their child is under age three and attends a group-based daycare.

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Unlicensed child-care spots don’t receive any subsidies.

In August, the B.C. government announced another 43,000 children would benefit from subsidies for preschool and before- and after- school care.

However, Sharon Gregson, who works with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C., said many B.C. families aren’t benefiting from that government funding because they’re unable to find a licensed child-care spot either in daycare or before- and after-school care.

“I would say the biggest pool of frustrated parents is families who don’t have any access to licensed child care,” she said.

A particular problem is a shortage of spaces in before- and after-school care, she said.

“If they can attend an elementary school between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., that elementary should also be able to accommodate them before and after school,” she said, yet B.C. is far off from making that a reality.

The report’s findings should put pressure on the B.C. NDP government to move faster to implement universal $10-a-day child care, said Gregson. While B.C. has made excellent progress in making child care more affordable, Gregson said B.C. is falling behind other provinces.

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“We’re falling behind in converting existing programs to $10-a-day, we’re falling behind in terms of affordability for everybody, we’re falling behind in terms of implementing a wage grid for early childhood educators,” she said.

B.C. Minister of State for Child Care Grace Lore didn’t give a date for when all B.C. child-care spaces will be subsidized to $10-a-day, but she said Wednesday that funding from provincial and federal governments has reduced child-care fees by more than 50 per cent.

She also noted that lower- and middle-income families get income-tested subsidies that bring their monthly fees down to zero. She also said B.C. is working to expand the number of spaces in daycares and school-aged care.

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