Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) System: A Roadmap to Accessible and Affordable Child Care in Ontario

A national child care program was first recommended in 1970 by the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, but there had not yet been a Canada-wide child care policy until recently. The April 2021 federal budget’s $30 billion investment over five years and permanent funding of approximately $9.2 billion annually in child care, marked an important policy advancement for the Canadian economy especially for women and children. The CWELCC plan was announced by the Province of Ontario in March 2022 to support families by providing funding for licensed child care services. The goal was to make child care more affordable, accessible, and inclusive for families with children under the age of five.

For the many Toronto families, child care usage is often dependent on the cost of child care services.  In 2022, child care usage among families with children below the age of six was 41% in Ontario compared to 71% in Quebec. From 2021 to 2022, the first year the reduced child care fees started taking effect, it was reported by the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario that the labour force participation rates for mothers with young children rose 2.4 percentage points.

Every licensed child care provider (centre-based or home-based child care) serving children under the age of six (or turning six before June 30) is eligible to apply for enrolment in the CWELCC system, provided they meet program requirements. In Toronto, 1,054 licenced child care operators are eligible to opt-in or opt-out of CWELCC and this includes commercial, not-for-profit, public child care centres and licenced home child care. As of December 2022, 92% of the licensed child care operators in Ontario opted into the program and effective December 31, 2022, child care fees were brought down to 50% of the 2020 fees. By September 2025, licensed child care centres are expected to lower their fees to an average of $10 per day.


Table 1: Participation of Licensed Child Care Centres in $10 a day Child Care Agreement, City of Toronto

Types of Operators No of Participants in the $10 a day Child Care Agreement Total Number of Licensed Child Care Centres Percentage of Operators Participating in the $10 a day Child Care Agreement
City 37 37 100%
Non-Profit 632 688 92%
Commercial 217 321 68%
Total 886 1,046 85%

Source: Children’s Services, City of Toronto


Table 1 shows the percentage of licensed child care centres who participated in the $10 a day child care agreement in Toronto[iii]. As of November 2023, approximately 85% of the total child care centres and 88% of Home Child Care Agencies opted into the agreement. While recent headlines might suggest that some child care providers in Toronto are opting out of the initiative, the number of licensed child care spaces (centre based) increased and were more affordable. Using City of Toronto’s Children’s Services data, we found that compared to Jan 2022, there were 5.5% more child care spaces in Toronto in December 2023.

Under the CWELCC agreement, the province is also committed to create approximately 86,000 new licensed child care spaces by the end of 2026 for children five years and under. The expansion plan is based on five pillars: improved affordability, improved access, sustaining high-quality services, inclusion, and enhanced data and reporting. In January 2023, child care providers’ CWELCC enrolment shifted to targeted growth and focused on creating affordable child care spaces in underprivileged communities.

The agreement also focuses on enhancing the quality of child care programs by improving the wages, benefits, professional development, and career pathways of the RECEs working in a licensed child care setup with children below the age of 12 years.


Table 2: Median Daily Fees (Full-Time) Prior to the $10 a day Child Care Agreement, Licensed Child Care Centres, City of Toronto

Infant Toddler Preschool Before and After Full-Day Kindergarten Before and After School
Jun-15 $82.11 $64.00 $47.60 $31.73 $24.78
Jun-16 $85.00 $65.30 $49.00 $32.00 $23.57
Jun-17 $85.00 $65.00 $50.00 $32.07 $25.00
Jun-18 $85.50 $65.34 $50.25 $31.72 $25.93
Jun-19 $86.00 $65.17 $50.00 $31.40 $25.92
Jun-21 $89.70 $65.71 $51.00 $31.24 $26.21
Jun-22 $89.70 $66.00 $51.00 $30.80 $27.16

Source: Budget Notes Children’s Services, City of Toronto


Table 2 shows the daily fees paid by families for using licensed child care centre services in Toronto between 2015 and 2022. While most centres fall within these ranges, there are still some that may charge above or below. These fees were prior to the implementation of the $10 a day child care agreement signed by the government of Ontario.


Table 3: Average Daily Fees (Full-Time) after the Introduction of the $10 a day Child Care Agreement, Licensed Child Care Centres, City of Toronto

Infant Toddler Preschool Before and After Full-Day Kindergarten
Jun-23 $32.19 $29.21 $24.29 $14.68

Source: 2023 Budget Notes Children’s Services, City of Toronto


Table 3 highlights the impact of the CWELCC agreement on the fees for distinct types of programs offered by licensed child care centres in Toronto. With average regulated child care fees reduced by 50%, Ontario families could save up to $8500[iv] annually on licensed child care per child, as of April 2023. Unlicensed programs are not eligible to participate in the CWELCC system and this includes unlicensed Home Child Care Providers, authorized recreation programs and school board-operated extended day programs.


Source: Children’s Services, City of Toronto


A child care subsidy is available for families who need help with the cost of licensed child care programs. An additional fee reduction may be applied to the fee subsidy if the parent chooses a program (licensed center or licensed home-based child care) that is participating in the $10 a day child care agreement. According to Figure 1, in July 2023, 68% of the child care centers in the City of Toronto were subsidized.  The number of children on waitlist for a child care fee subsidy was 14,938 on December 2023. This was an 8.43% decline from previous period.

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