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Just how much money are Canadians paying for child care?

Child care for infants, toddlers and preschoolers can feel like a second mortgage for many Canadian parents, and sometimes you wind up paying wildly expensive fees just to put your kid on the waitlist. If you feel like child care has been getting more and more expensive, you’re right on the money. The price of child care has skyrocketed since 2014 in many Canadian cities according to a recent study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

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“It will be no surprise to many parents that regulated child care is expensive, but what is most shocking is that in many cities fees have risen much faster than inflation since 2014,” explained study author David Macdonald in a press statement.

Child care fees climbed over 8 percent in the past few years for parents in Canadian cities. So what exactly does this mean for parents? “This can amount to parents paying $1,000 more a year per child than they did just two years ago,” Macdonald said. While child care subsidies exist for low-income families in most provinces, they’re not always enough. Low-income parents in Saskatoon can still wind up paying nearly $500 in additional fees that aren’t covered by subsidies.

“With additional user fees so high, it’s unlikely that this family could even utilize licensed child care,” said the study authors.

What’s a parent to do if their child care fees are eating up a considerable chunk of their monthly paycheck? Some have actually left cities with expensive child care, like Toronto, to find more affordable child care options. Former Toronto resident Kathleen Kahlon told CBC News that her $1,800 a month preschool costs “were almost as much as [her] mortgage.” So she moved to Ontario’s Caledon East, where her child care costs are now halved at $900 per month. “I can’t imagine having more than one child in day care. I don’t know how families do it,” she said.

Leaving your city to find cheaper child care can actually be a sensible financial choice because there are absurd differences in the price of child care from one Canadian city to another. Child care is cheapest for parents living in cities in Quebec, Manitoba and PEI, where the provincial government sets the fees, and more expensive in provinces like Ontario, where market forces determine the fees. For instance, in Quebec — where parents pay the lowest fees — a Montreal family might only find themselves out of pocket $164 a month for child care. But if you live in Toronto, you’re stuck with the most expensive fees for child care: a median of $1,649 each month to put an infant in child care, $1,375 for toddlers and $1,150 for preschoolers.

How does the typical family fare? Let’s imagine you’re a middle-income Toronto family with an infant and a 3-year-old. You’d wind up paying nearly $3,000 each month for regulated child care, or a whopping $36,000 per year — and that’s if you could even snag your children spots at preschool to begin with. The study found that 89 percent of Toronto child care centers have waiting lists.

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Being waitlisted is even costing some Canadian parents money. While Ontario banned waitlist fees in September, in other Canadian provinces, parents sometimes have to pay to hold their child’s spot. Parents pay waitlist fees, for instance, at nearly half of child care centers in Vancouver and a third of child care centers in Richmond.

Macdonald told The Star that researchers are not exactly sure what’s driven up the price of child care in recent years, but added: “Even if we could explain it, I don’t know if that would help, particularly, because they still have to pay the fees.”

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