Charlottetown child care among cheapest in country, report says

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Charlottetown child care among cheapest in country, report says

Parents in Charlottetown are paying some of the cheapest rates in the country for child care, according to a new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The report compares the median cost of child care in 18 cities across the country and found Charlottetown's rates for infant and toddler spaces to be among the cheapest in the country: $738 per month for an infant space, $608 per month for a toddler space.

By comparison, parents in Toronto are paying more than double those rates — $1,758 per month for infants, $1,354 per month for toddlers.

"The other thing that's interesting about Charlottetown is that the fees haven't increased over the entire four years we've been doing this survey," David MacDonald said, the report's co-author.  "In contrast, Toronto has seen a 20 per cent increase in their fees over that time."

Government sets fees

So what's keeping Charlottetown's child care rates relatively low?

MacDonald said it all comes down to the fact the P.E.I. government sets parent fees at its 46 more heavily regulated early years centres and in return partially subsidizes those centres' costs.

Quebec and Manitoba are the only other provinces that set fees at most of their daycares.

"Certainly in the provinces where the fees are set, those are the cheapest places," MacDonald said.  

"If you were not setting fees provincially, you'd probably be paying twice as much as you pay right now in Charlottetown. That's what you'd pay in Ontario for a similar sized city."

Cheap, but affordable? 

The report does not factor in the average wages of parents in each city. 

P.E.I.'s average weekly wages are regularly among the lowest in the country.

Sonya Hooper, the executive director of the Early Childhood Development Association of PEI, cautions that while the province's child care rates are relatively low, that doesn't mean they're actually affordable for Island families. 

Hooper also said that while the provincial government's set fees and subsidies to early years centres have remained steady, those centres' costs have increased.

"A glaring missing link in the report is the correlation to 'quality' care and education and the rising costs associated to delivering quality programs," Hooper said in an email to CBC.

"For instance, there's increasing rental fees, the growing challenge of retaining highly qualified and certified educators, and the increasing costs to deliver quality programs including heating costs and meals."

The province has committed to providing more funding to the child care system over the next few years, with the help of $10.5 million from the federal government.

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