National survey highlights: The pandemic experience has created an uncertain future for Canadian child care services

    The COVID 19 pandemic has cast early learning and child care (ELCC) in a new light
    for many Canadians—as an essential service necessary for rebuilding a well-functioning economy. However, the Canadian child care sector suffered from a confusing, uneven and often less-than-adequate approach by governments to supporting services and parents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The preliminary results of a national survey show significant differences between how jurisdictions responded to the health crisis with respect to ELCC policy, staff, provision funding and parent fees. While the pandemic brought similar challenges to child care services and parents in different regions, the survey showed that how they fared depended on their location in Canada.

    Canada’s child care sector needs funding boost to support parents and economic recovery

    National survey results released: Reopening of child care is at risk

     A survey of more than 8,000 regulated child care facilities across Canada reveals almost all have concerns about reopening their regular early learning and care programs post-COVID, and one-third of them say they are uncertain they will resume operations at all.

    While governments, economists and others say the economy cannot recover from the COVID-19 pandemic without child care services, the child care sector says reopening safely will require financial and staffing resources they don’t have.

    “The child care sector was fragile before the pandemic because public funding has never been sufficient relative to what it costs to provide high quality services,” said Martha Friendly, Executive Director of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit, the primary researcher behind the survey. The survey was carried out by the Childcare Resource and Research Unit, the Canadian Child Care Federation and Child Care Now.

    “Without proper government funding, providers of child care have been forced to live on the edge and be overly reliant on parent fees for revenue. This left them incredibly vulnerable during the pandemic shutdown,” added Friendly.

    The survey shows that almost three-quarters of child care centres in Canada, and about 40 per cent of regulated family child care, were shut down by COVID-19; many stopped receiving parent fees. A majority of centres reported they received less government funding than before COVID-19 although some provincial governments continued to provide financial support.

    Don Giesbrecht, Chief Executive Officer for the Canadian Child Care Federation, the national organization of child care operators, noted the survey’s finding that 70 per cent of the child care centres laid off their workforce during the pandemic.

    “To get child care back up and running, governments must find ways to bring employees back to the sector,” said Giesbrecht. “This means addressing the problem of low wages and inadequate compensation, and putting in place special funding to make sure that child care facilities are safe for both children and staff.”

    In an announcement last Friday, Prime Minister Trudeau offered Canada’s provinces and territories $14 billion in new federal transfers to assist with the reopening of the economy, including the reopening of child care services.

    “We are very pleased the federal government recognizes there can be no economic recovery without child care, and that child care is especially crucial to address the devastating impact of the pandemic on women with young children, but those federal transfers must be earmarked for additional direct operational funding of child care services,” said Morna Ballantyne, Executive Director of Child Care Now, Canada’s national child care advocacy organization.

    “Boosting public funding for child care and directing more dollars to child care services will mean that those operating child care centres and family child care programs can have the confidence to put in place safety measures and bolster wages to attract the staff they need without increasing parent fees. This is extremely important given the impact of COVID-19 on household incomes,” said Ballantyne.


    For media requests:

    Martha Friendly, Childcare Resource and                                                              Don Giesbrecht

    Research Unit                                                                                                                    Canadian Child Care Federation

    (416) 562 7579                                                                                                                  (613) 729-5289 ext.220                                                                             


    Morna Ballantyne                                                                                                            Technical questions related to the survey:

    Child Care Now                                                                                                                 Barry Forer

    (613) 791-3411                                                                                                                 (604) 862-9839                                                                                                          


    The survey report was authored by Researchers Martha Friendly, Barry Forer and Rachel Vickerson, and published by Childcare Resource and Research Unit, Child Care Now, and Canadian Child Care Federation. 

    A separate report providing data for a more detailed picture will be available next week at, the Childcare Resource and Research Unit’s website. 


    CCCF Webinar: Canada’s ELCC Sector and COVID – 19 — What’s Happening? How do We Move Forward?

    Across Canada, provincial/territorial government’s COVID-19 actions and directions specific to the ELCC sector have been diverse. From public messaging to different approaches to group sizes to programs/providers opening or closing to the roles of the ELCC workforce in providing Essential Service Worker (ESW) care, it has been a patchwork of responses.

    Link to watch the webinar, originally broadcast on Thursday, April 16, 2020

    Urgent Open Letter to Canada’s P/T Ministers – Coordinated Early Learning and Child Care Planning on COVID-19

    The CCCF with the support of its pan-Canadian affiliates have sent an open letter to all Ministers–federal, provincial and territorial–responsible for Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) calling for coordinated action and initiatives between governments specific to ELCC.

    Open Letter to PT Ministers March 25, 2020

    CCCF’s Essential ECEs

    Supporting Canada’s ELCC sector, download a copy of the CCCF’s Essential ECEs image for printing and social media here.

    Open Letter to Canada’s Premiers — Early Learning and Child Care Planning COVID-19

    The Canadian Child Care Federation is calling on all provincial and territorial governments across Canada to take immediate action to protect and mitigate the possible effects of COVID-19 for all children, Canada’s ELCC workforce and families.

    Open Letter to Canada’s Premiers

    March 16, 2020

    Open Letter to Canada’s Premiers — Early Learning and Child Care Planning COVID-19:

    Most of your governments have or will be announcing COVID-19 plans and strategies to minimize and mitigate risk and transmission specific to children in schools. Outside of Quebec, PEI, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta is the absence of plans specific to the Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) sector. It is a serious omission as the safety and security of all children and the Early Childhood Educators (ECE’s) who care for them in intimate, close contact each and every day, as well as their families are just as worthy of fulsome COVID-19 mitigation and planning.

    Public health decisions affecting children must include all children — not just those that are enrolled in the public-school system. Understanding that ELCC programs are not a part of public system as schools are, they are still subject to provincial/territorial/municipal regulations, licensing and funding and as such, are within the purview of public safety plans.

    Closing schools and classrooms while still keeping child care programs open, no matter where they are situated, does not satisfy a holistic approach to children’s welfare. It also does not recognize the reality of spaces used, group sizes and the very act of caring for children. Further, it shows little regard to the women and men that work in Canada’s ELCC sector.

    Of serious concern and counter to what the Canadian Government’s social distance policy is trying to achieve, ELCC programs across Canada will feel tremendous pressure to remain open in order to meet the urgent child care demands of families. Without adequate financial supports in place to support their temporary closing and to ensure the continued economic security of the ELCC workforce, many programs will feel compelled to continue their operations, despite the immediate safety concerns.

    We urgently recommend that immediate federal, provincial and territorial funding be dedicated to support program closures, and aid the ECE workforce and families that are impacted—so that Canada’s ELCC sector can follow the immediate call for social distancing protocols.

    All children, ELCC programs and families deserve no less that your full planning consideration. The window to significantly alter the effect and impact of the COVID-19 virus is quickly closing—we need to fully act now, not when it is too late.


    Don Giesbrecht



    Cc: The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau Hon. Ahmed Hussen, Hon. Bill Morneau, Hon Maryam Monsef, Hon. Chrystia Freeland


    Child Care Fees in Canada 2019

    In Progress Child care fees in Canada 2019

    Via the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Child Care Resource and research Unit (CRRU)

    This study, the sixth in an annual series, provides a snapshot of the median child care fees parents pay in 37 cities across Canada for full-time licensed child care of infants, toddlers and preschool-age children. Fees were surveyed in October 2019. With the addition of nine new cities, for the first time this year’s survey provides child care fee data for locations in all provinces and territories.

    Though child care fees remain unaffordable across the country, policy initiatives clearly make a difference. Various levels of government have attempted different child care fee interventions, some of which have been more successful than others. Yet by and large, these initiatives do not achieve the goal of providing access to sustained, affordable and high quality child care for a substantial number of families.

    Le rapport en français est disponible içi. 

    Impacting Child Care in Canada

    Canada’s Federal Funding for Child Care

    Positive Impacts on Quality

    In 2017-2018 the Government of Canada made

    history, signing bilateral agreements on Early Leaning and Child Care (ELCC) with all provinces and territories. Of specific significance, signed in September 2018 was the Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework. This agreement represents the Government of Canada’s and Indigenous peoples’ work to co-develop a transformative Indigenous framework that reflects the unique cultures, aspirations and needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children across Canada.

    The Canadian Child Care Federation (CCCF), along with its affiliates, were pleased to provide support to Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos, in the first steps towards moving child care forward in Canada. Federal funding is supporting quality in child care in provinces and territories and has had an impact. The current agreements are a start in the government’s support of ELCC in Canada and increased funding and further policy development must be implemented so that Canada’s children, families and ELCC sector can better address the interrelated elements of high-quality child care.

    The CCCF is pleased to highlight some stories from across the country of how the bilateral agreements have positively impacted children and families in Canada’s child care sector.