Child care sector in most Canadian cities at risk because of rising fees and declining enrolment, according to a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Sounding the Alarm is the 2021 edition of CCPA’s survey of child care fees. This year’s edition notes that in provinces that put caps on parent fees (Québec, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, PEI) child care centres are holding their own. Quebec’s directly subsidized child care centres are faring best with no enrolment dips.

Elsewhere fees are rising, and parents — many of whom are dealing with COVID-driven unemployment — are pulling out.

Enrolment is dropping more dramatically in cities with high parent fees. In every city outside Quebec there were at least 10% fewer children in child care in the fall of 2020 compared to February; 27 out of 37 cities showed enrolment drops of 20% or higher. This was most extreme in Ontario, where one-third to two-thirds of child care enrolment evaporated during that period.

Eventually, Child Care Now Executive Director Morna Ballantyne says, this dynamic could force centres to close further reducing access to early learning and child are and choking economic recovery .