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Nonprofits deliver a Canada-wide child care system

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A briefing note to inform the development of Canada’s nonprofit child care system
Fact sheet
Publication Date: 
22 Jun 2021

Excerpted from introduction


For the first time in Canada there is overwhelming public and cross-sectoral support as well as political will tied to using a significant amount of money to build a Canada-wide child care system. Various arguments have won people over, with the most common one being that women are disproportionately dropping out of the labour force due to the pandemic and child care is the obvious pathway to pandemic recovery - not just for women but for our economy overall.

Currently we have a federal vision, decades of research, historic level of investments, and appetite from many provinces and territories to improve child care. For this reason, it is more important than ever that this moment be seized to build the best child care system possible. This system, as noted by the federal government, should be rooted in principles of affordability, accessibility, high quality and inclusivity. The design elements described below are paramount to ensure low parent fees, the elimination of child care deserts, adequate licensed and regulated spaces for all, a well paid workforce, and expansion of both public and nonprofit child care spaces.

Nonprofits, including nonprofit cooperatives, are the best partners for governments to build and expand a Canada-wide licensed child care system that fits this vision. While the sector is making the best out of precarious child care infrastructure, an enabling policy environment led by the federal government and negotiated with the provinces/territories would allow the sector to better support parents and their children. The sector is well positioned to offer a variety of flexible, high quality child care choices to parents that do not compromise quality of care, safety and working conditions. Expanding in partnership with the nonprofit sector now will have positive cascading effects for children, parents - especially women, the child care workforce, communities and the broader economy for years to come.

Summary of recommendations:

  1. Take profit out of child care by targeting all federal investments for expanding licensed child care across Canada exclusively to nonprofits and nonprofit cooperatives, thus ensuring there is no further expansion in the for-profit sector.
  2. Provide federal capital investments for building new licensed child care spaces and retrofitting existing ones exclusively to nonprofits and nonprofit cooperatives.
  3. Invest in start up/scaling up of nonprofits that can function as intermediaries between nonprofit child care services and the child care spaces building process to strengthen the sector’s ability to expand (e.g., technical assistance and capital project financing experts).