Cover Image for A Work in Progress: Towards $10 a day Child Care in Toronto.

A Work in Progress: Towards $10 a day Child Care in Toronto.

By Mahjabeen Mamoon | February 2024

Executive Summary

For over a half-century, working parents in Toronto have struggled with access to child care.  From an absence of child care spaces located in their neighbourhood to the lack of affordable fees, parents have often had to make stressful and difficult decisions that negatively affect their ability to work and income.  Educators, advocates, and civic leaders have long called for a coherent child care system at the Federal, Provincial and Municipal level.

The signing of the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) agreement between the Province of Ontario and Federal Government in March 2022 provided a significant opportunity to make child care more accessible and affordable to families. The five-year plan, being rolled out in stages, will reduce fees every year until 2026 with the objective of reaching an average fee of $10 a day.

We are now two years into the transformation of Ontario’s child care system.  Not unexpectedly, the implementation of the CWELCC has not been without its challenges.  As predicted by Policy Options in 2021, we are learning that affordability and accessibility are not synonymous.  Indeed, the substantial lowering of fees has made child care within reach of more low- and middle-income families, has in turn increased the demand for child care space.  Although this report finds that the number and availability of child care spaces in Toronto has grown over the last two years, this growth is being constrained by the difficulties in finding qualified child care staff.

The implementation of the CWELCC has caused upheaval and interim stress for both parents and the system itself – it is critically important to get it right.  An accessible and affordable child care system in Toronto creates positive long-term economic and social outcomes for parents, children, and communities.  Evidence indicates that quality child care leads to:

  • Higher labour force participation rates, particularly among women. Given current and forecasted future labour market shortages; unlocking of worker availability is critical.
  • Positive effects on child cognitive and social development, improves school-readiness, and creates a foundation for lifelong learning.
  • The potential for higher fertility rates. Our low fertility rates are causing a rapid population aging and increased stress on the labour market and public health care. Accessibility to child care and barriers caused by the cost, is often cited by potential parents as why they will delay or not have children.

As Canada’s largest city, Toronto presents unique opportunities and challenges with respect to child care. Workers with unpredictable schedules looking for non-standard hours of child care services face nearly insurmountable barriers. Low-income families looking for subsidized child care or families who rely on Toronto’s transit system to drop off/pick up their child(ren) to and from the centre may face more impediments to accessing services. As, per the Global Transport Report 2022, Toronto had the longest distance per commute in North America, based on trips taken via the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), GO Transit and other regional transportation providers.

Drawing on a variety of quantitative and qualitative information this report focuses on the current state of the child care industry and its workforce in the context of Toronto. Although numbers show that there has been an increase in the number of child care spots over the years, the fact that parents are facing difficulties in securing a spot is an indicator that there are still ongoing challenges related to the availability of spaces. The major roadblock is the current staffing shortages faced by the child care industry, particularly the shortage of qualified Early Childhood Educators (ECEs). There is evidence suggesting that centres are struggling to run programs at their optimal capacity due to recruitment and retention challenges of child care workers.

Key findings from the report: 

  • The Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) agreement between the Province of Ontario and Federal Government to lower fees is having its intended effect: it has created more affordable licensed child care services for families in Toronto.
  • Over the past decade, there has been a notable increase in the number of licensed child care centres in Toronto for all types of programs (infant, toddler, preschool, kindergarten, and school age). However, most of the increase in child care space has occurred in before and after school program. Increase in spaces for infants and toddlers has been far more modest.
  • Current efforts made by the Province of Ontario and stakeholders to increase the number of child care spaces is being undermined by the lack of Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs). While the Province of Ontario has moved to increase wages of RECE’s, it remains unclear if this alone is sufficient to attract and retain frontline staff.
  • Many parents still rely on unlicensed child care because of cost or proximity to where they live. Unlicensed child care operates in a policy grey area. While technically illegal, governments have been reluctant to enforce licensing because of the strain it would cause to families using it.  The City of Toronto and Province of Ontario should consider approaches or initiative to support unregulated child care providers to transition to becoming licensed.
  • Toronto has a numerous day care “deserts” and these deserts appear to correlate with neighbourhood’s that have high rates of working poor, low-income families, and transit poverty.


I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to the individuals who contributed to the development of the report, “A Work in Progress: Towards $10 a day Child Care in Toronto”. Within our own organization, I am grateful for the guidance and support provided by John MacLaughlin, Kevin Stolarick, Megha Parhar and Dominic Chan. Their expertise and commitment have been invaluable in shaping the trajectory of this report. I would also like to express my gratitude to the external stakeholders who generously dedicated their time and resources to this study. Cynthia Abel, Deputy Registrar and Director of Registration at the College of Early Childhood Educators; Alana Powell, Director of the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario; Sandra Santedicola RECE, from the Yonge and Churchill Licensed Child Care Centre; Diane Daley, CEO of Family Day Care Services; and Shanley McNamee, General Manager of Children’s Services at the City of Toronto, played pivotal roles in enriching our research through interviews and engaging conversations via email or phone. It is important to emphasize that any mistakes or inconsistencies found in the report are solely the fault of the author and are not a reflection of the excellent insights provided by these esteemed individuals. Their collective efforts have significantly contributed to the depth and quality of our findings.

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