Yellowknife childcare costs place the city near the middle of the pack compared to other Canadian cities, according to a recent report.

In March, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA ) released its sixth annual report examining national monthly child care fees. The study included infants (0 to 18 months), toddlers (18 months to three years) and pre-school (age three to school age) at licensed child care spaces.

The report examined 37 cities across the country and involved phone interviews in October 2019 to learn the average figures.

The study generally found child care costs across the country remain “unaffordably high,” however, there is much that government policy can do to mitigate the costs, a news release from CCPA stated.

Infant costs were the highest for Yellowknife at $1,093 a month – more expensive than Edmonton at $1,075 but cheaper than Vancouver at $1,112.

Toronto had the highest rate of all Canadian cities at $1,774 and the lowest were several cities in Quebec at $179.

Toddlers 

In the toddler range, Toronto ($1,457) and several Quebec centres, at $179, were at the highest and lowest ends of the spectrum. Yellowknife was at $990 — higher than Hamilton’s $977 but lower than Burnaby’s $1,000.

David Macdonald, CCPA senior economist who oversaw the study, said although his organization has been looking at childcare costs across Canada for about six years, this is the first time that the Northern territories, including Yellowknife, have been examined.

Macdonald said it’s clear that in some areas for young children, costs are quite high compared to larger cities in the south.

Pre-School Children 

For preschool children, the city with the highest median cost was Iqaluit at $1,213, while the lowest, once again, were several provincial government subsidized cities in Quebec at $179.

In Yellowknife the median cost was $890, sandwiched between Edmonton ($875) and Vancouver ($954), the study found.

“Despite not being nearly as big a city as either of those two, it finds itself with fees similar to those two cities,” Macdonald noted. “Yellowknife is not a big city and when you compare it to some other big cities, you might think that things would be a bit cheaper in Yellowknife. Oftentimes things might be a little cheaper but that is not really the case here. You are sitting about in mid-range with several other mid-range cities in terms of preschool age costs.”

David Macdonald, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
photo courtesy of the CCPA
Macdonald pointed to lower costs in some cities as being due to set fee systems in four provinces — namely Quebec, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Licensed child care centres get a grant from the government and in return set a provincial fee.
Macdonald said historical data from cities over the six-year life of the city show that set fee systems lead to reductions in child-care costs.
“What I think is pretty clear is that in any of these age groups, the cities with the cheapest  rates are in the provinces with operational grants and set fees,” Macdonald said. “We have historical data on many of these cities and the biggest drop that we saw since the last study was in St. John’s because of the set fee system (in Newfoundland and Labrador.)”

 

Operational set fee vs. Fee reduction 
Macdonald said operational set fees seem to be the most successful, however there are other approaches — particularly in Ontario and British Columbia — that involve provincial governments giving parents daily amounts of money to go toward child care costs. In effect it serves as a rebate, but the historical data shows that it hasn’t effectively cut into the costs, he said.
“The fee reduction in BC, in particular, doesn’t seem to have actually reduced fees for parents,” Macdonald said. “What is happening is that because you are not attacking fees directly and just giving grants to parents, the underlying fees that centres charge aren’t set at a particular level. They are allowed to increase, so the centres are often increasing the fees pretty substantially… so parents, at the end of the day, aren’t that much better off.”

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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