As $10-a-day child care is rolling out across Canada, an insufficient number of spaces relative to demand remains a major challenge. Not Done Yet, a report just published by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives examines the availability of spaces across the country and finds that nearly 48 per cent of younger children in Canada live in a child care desert, a postal code that has more than three children per licensed child care space.

Not Done Yet, co-authored by CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald and Childcare Resource and Research Unit’s Martha Friendly delves into the need for specific and targeted expansion initiatives in addition to the affordability and accessibility actions outlined in each jurisdiction’s CWELCC agreement. The report looks into the 759,000 full-time licensed child care spaces for younger children who aren’t yet in kindergarten and finds a substantial shortage of spaces across Canada, except for Quebec and P.E.I.

“With 48 percent of younger children living in child care deserts, we need a rapid expansion of child care spaces through a collaborative effort to ensure that an adequate number of qualified early childhood educators (ECEs) are available to staff them,” says Macdonald. “Thankfully, the federal government has lowered parent fees for licensed child care at warp speed over the past two years, but when it comes to creating new quality child care spaces, it’s more like a horse-and-buggy show—something all levels of government need to fix and quickly.”

The range of child care coverage rates varies widely by city. In the 50 cities examined, there are seven licensed spaces for every 10 younger children in Whitehorse, Charlottetown, and the island of Montreal while there are only two spaces for every 10 children in Saskatoon, Regina, Kitchener, and Vancouver.

“If making high quality child care accessible to all Canadian families is our goal,” says Friendly, “then purposeful expansion of public, and not-for-profit licensed child care is the only way to ensure that the child care deserts in which half of Canada’s younger children live become a thing of the past. This must go hand-in hand with a full workforce strategy so there are qualified staff to resource new spaces.”

As demand for child care has risen with the federally funded fee reduction in 2022 and the post-pandemic return to work, making child care accessible, high quality and inclusive will require that federal, provincial, territorial, Indigenous and municipal governments come together with civil society, child care community partners, and parents to address the shortage of child care coverage in Canada.

Read Not Done Yet here 

Is my community a child care desert? A new interactive map shows the availability of child care across Canada.