Blog | November 13, 2014

By Peggy Revell, Medicine Hat NewsMedicine Hat isn’t the worst when it comes to child-care costs —but it’s definitely not the best.“The median in Medicine Hat for infant (child care), as of June 2014, is $790/month, for preschoolers, the median is $689,” said Jennifer Usher of the Medicine Hat and District Child Care Association and Medicine Hat Early Childhood Coalition.It’s a lower pricetag than many of the 22 cities looked at in a recently released study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on unsubsidize child-care fees.Torontonians pay the most for infant child care at $1,676/month, followed by St. John’s at $1,394/month. Toronto has the highest fees at $1,324/month for toddlers, while Vancouver, Burnaby, London, Brampton and Mississauga all have fees more than $1,000/month. Toronto has the highest preschooler fees at $998/month, while Calgary, London, Brampton, Mississauga and Ottawa all have fees above $900 a month.The cheapest cities are all in Quebec, at $152/month, due to Quebec’s $7/day child-care program.“What I noticed when I compared us, is we’re actually quite on par with Saskatoon,” said Usher, and close to Edmonton.If calculated a few months earlier, Medicine Hat rates would have been even lower, she said, but funding cuts meant many local centres raised fees to cover costs.The study also calculated how affordable fees were based on the median income for women in these cities.Brampton was deemed “least affordable,” as fees equalled 36 per cent of a woman’s income — or four months of work.Surrey, Windsor, London and Toronto’s rates were 34 to 35 per cent. The most affordable city was Gatineau, where child care took up four per cent of a woman’s income— two weeks’ worth of work.Public Interest Alberta executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon notes that Medicine Hat has the highest percentage of low wage workers in Alberta, with 40 per cent of employed people making less than $15 per hour.“Just over 60 per cent of low wage workers are women in Medicine Hat, ” he said.Alberta has child-care subsidies available, said Moore-Kilgannon, but a key findings from a PIA survey being released later this month is that subsidy rates don’t cover “anywhere near the actual cost of child care.”Anecdotally, Usher says she often hears parents trying to decide whether going back to work is worth it due to child-care costs.Parents should look into what subsidies are available, she said, including kin-care ones if a family member is providing care.“The tricky part is that some of the families, the husbands are making good money in the oilfield, but then expenses are still up,” she said — so they don’t qualify for subsidies.The majority of the fees go toward child-care staffing, she said, yet in many cases, these workers are making low wages.“It’s a really tricky equation,” she said. “Centres care about children, they want to do the best they can … but they also need to pay their staff appropriately too.”Other provinces and countries are seeing the payoff in investing in child care, Moore-Kilgannon said, including a recent study that showed that Quebec gets more back than they put into the child-care system because more families are able to work.“It’s about shifting the ideas to say this is a public good that our children are able to get quality care, and it’s economically smart. Those are things that people need to think about.”Read the story on the Medicine Hat News website