Reality Check: Maybe We Ought to Ask…What Does Daycare Cost?

Those who can’t count should cut the accountability clamour. I am referring to the fear-mongering that directly funding families rather than daycare will increase beer and popcorn sales.

Some info for this fact-starved discussion:

The daycare lobby says high quality universal daycare that pays workers as much as school teachers will cost 1 per cent of GDP. That’s $10.5 billion/year in Canada—not including children over 6 which they want to include.

It is complete fiction, to put it nicely. Daycare costs are grossly underestimated in order to sell it to the arithmetically-challenged.

The amount is not based on actual cost projections. The source is the “targets” set by the European Commission Network on Childcare and Other Measures to Reconcile Employment with Family Responsibilities. This same gang says babies and toddlers should be “trusted with the freedom to explore out of the range of adult gaze.” Really. This ideological nonsense is imported to Canada by the fully tax-funded Childcare Resource and Research Unit at the University of Toronto (

But the facts are out there.

The pro-daycare RAND Corporation, the giant US military-industrial think-tank, asked daycares about costs. Excluding capital, rent, major repairs, and food, costs averaged US$15,217 per year for infants. For age 2, US$11,827. For age 3-5, US$9,678.

This compares to the BC government’s 1999 assessment of $14,604 per year for infant/toddler care, and $8,592 for age 3-5.

It compares to the Swedish operating costs subsidy to daycare centres averaging US$25,000 per year for a family of 1.5 children.

What about the TOTAL costs?

$20,000 per space is a very low estimate attempting to include bureaucracy, capital, repairs, rent, regulatory, and training costs. This is based on maintaining existing wages. It is also based on maintaining the staff:child ratios and low quality found in the majority of daycares in the US, Sweden and Canada, according to the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Swedish Ministry of Education, and the “You Bet I Care” report.

What about the cost of the promised system: well-paid, universal, high quality daycare for all 0-12?

For a universal program for age 0-5—over 2 million children—that’s $40 billion per year. For high quality and teacher-level wages, that could easily double. Include out-of-school care for children 6-12, and it’s anywhere from $50-100 billion.

We are offered 11 billion over 10 years, $1.1 billion per year, about $500 per year per child 0-5. Looks like they’re expecting most parents to look after their kids without government support after all, without even beer or popcorn.

Someone forgot to say “thanks mum and dad!”

Helen Ward,
Kids First Parent Association of Canada

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