Why’s The Cost Of Childcare in Calgary So Darn High?


Written by Marlene Alcon Kepka


| 7 MIN READ |



Daycare in Calgary can be some of the highest in the country. Our city ranks in the top 5 most expensive childcare fees. See for yourself.

There are 5 top reasons why your child care bill is so high. Let’s find out why.

#1 – Child Care Needs Bodies

Ratios, ratios, ratios. The Alberta government mandates that a certain number of daycare workers need to be watching a certain number of little ones.

That number can vary from 1 to 3 all the way to 1 to 15. These are the minimum ratios and some daycare providers lower them even more. Like 2000 Days Pre-Kindergarten.

Here are the Alberta childcare ratios and group sizes.

Payroll is the largest expense in most businesses. Daycares in Calgary are no different. The more bodies you have in the building being paid the more your costs go up.

Parents must shoulder those costs. This is the largest reason why childcare is so expensive.

You might think to increase the ratios so costs go down. And you would be right. But the down side is that now you have more children and less supervision.

Accidents would go up. Quality would go down. Most daycares don’t want to go this route.

#2 –Gotta Put A Roof Over Their Heads

Yup, rent. Most childcare centres have to pay rent. Very few own their own building and have it paid off. As we know Calgary can be expensive to lease a building to have a daycare in it.

Rent is usually paid by the square foot. With prices in the $20-$45 dollar range you can see how that adds up.

Rent for some daycares in Calgary can be well over $15,000 a month. For larger child care centres it could be over $50,000 a month.

Daycare centres also have to have a minimum size. For outdoor space to play and for indoor space. The average is about 3 square meters per child. This varies on program and age.

The Alberta government made this mandatory so certain child care providers couldn’t jam as many children into a space as possible.

This is a great policy and has to be in place for our children to have the space they need to thrive.

But again it adds to the costs of childcare. The larger the space the more the daycare provider is paying for rent.

Since we’re on this subject we can also touch on utilities. Heat, air conditioning, electricity aren’t cheap.  Most daycare centers are open 12+ hours a day so all those costs add up.

#3 – Quality Child Care

If you’ve been to a few daycare facilities you might have seen that quality can vary greatly. I noticed this too when I looked for childcare many years ago.

One center would have amazing security, teachers and building. The other is barely holding it together and the word sketchy could be used freely. 

Most parents want their child in a quality daycare program. I think you already know what I’m gonna write. This costs money. And it can be larger expense then most people think.

Daycare furniture is expensive. A child care table can be well over $300 dollars per table. A sleeping cot for one child could be over $110 dollars. That’s not even the really high end stuff.

Learning toys and equipment can also add up quickly. Buying a learning toy that is $25 dollars seems like a good deal and not too costly. But there are 15 children in that room that all want one. Now you are looking at $375 for one toy.

Children aren’t the most gentle with toys in the first place. In a childcare centre it’s even worse. Toys get damaged and cycled through a lot. Replacing these toys on a regular basis can drain the budget fast.

#4 – Yummy Yummy In My Tum Tum Tummy

Some daycares feed your child. Some feed them home made food that is prepared by a chef on site. Some do this and use high quality, nutritional ingredients. That adds up.

Having food made by the child care facility is great for most parents. Not worrying about a healthy lunch and snack each and everyday. Wow. That is a stress saver. The downside is that it costs money to feed so many children.

A daycare can cater or have a chef on site. I prefer a chef on site as he gets to know the families and their eating preferences. The quality can be better with a chef and from my own experience the meals are tastier. But catering is fine too.

Both get expensive quickly. Thousands for equipment in the kitchen. Replacing items as they wear out can add up quickly.

Thousands for food on a monthly basis. Your little monkeys eat like lions. Especially if the chef is good and makes nutritional and delicious meals.

Studies have shown that providing healthy meals is essential to your child’s health. It’s great for parents to not have to worry about this. They have enough on their plate. Get it plate. HA.

5# – Can’t Wrap Them In Bubble Wrap

Calgary Daycare centers have to be safe. That is something any parent can agree on. Safety means a lot of things.

There are standard safety measures that all businesses in Calgary need to abide by. Fire alarms, smoke detectors, building codes, etc.

Child care centers need to far beyond where most businesses stop. A retail store or plumbing shop need the bare minimum of safety.

Daycares in Calgary need to do a lot more. Here are a few things childcare facilities do to keep your child safe:

  • Safety gates, safety doors
  • Access control for the main door with key cards
  • Weekly fire and intruder drills
  • Dozens and dozens of cameras
  • Special child acre equipment like tables, chairs, sleeping cots, etc.
  • Quick access to emergency systems
  • Child tracking systems
  • Fenced and secure outdoor play area

These are some of the extra things daycares do to keep your child as safe as possible. There are also administrative costs to create procedures and policies for safety. These are constantly updated and changed to make sure that safety’s improved.

This should be top of mind for any parent that is looking for daycare. There are a lot of things to look for when touring a child care center.

Here are Alberta’s daycare safety guidelines. You can see for yourself what goes into keeping your child safe.

How Can We Make Daycare More Affordable?

So those are the top 5 reasons why child care can be expensive. It’s also the reasons why it can vary so much from city to city and province to province.

Toronto has very expensive daycare because wages are higher and rent is much higher. Quebec has low child care costs because the province subsidies daycare heavily. Speaking of subsidy…

Alberta Childcare Subsidy

The government of Alberta has a child care subsidy in place. This can lower your daycare costs drastically but there are stipulations.

Who qualifies and for how much they get can be very complicated. Luckily the government made a great tool to find out if you qualify and for how much. Here it is. 

The subsidy can help families that need it but with a cap of $628 and costs being as high as $1600 a month this can fall short.

Also, the income amount for families can be pretty high to qualify for subsidy. Even a two income family making a decent amount will not qualify. Take a look at the subsidy amounts here. 

But again use the calculator mentioned above to see if you do. Any amount helps to keep the costs of daycare down.

Everyone’s situation, income and family are different so give it a try. It only takes a few minutes and gives you a number right away. You have nothing to lose. I get asked all the time if there’s a better way to afford quality daycare. Other countries have done it so why can’t Calgary and Canada as a whole?

Daycare Done Right?


There is only one real way to make daycare more affordable for all Canadian parents. And that’s to have a federal universal childcare program.

Many other countries in the world have this already. Denmark is one of the highest rated. Sweden comes close. Norway,  South Korea, Slovenia, France and many more.

We should stop treating child care as an after thought and put it front and centre of our entire society. We were all children at some point… right?

We would all benefit from a high quality and universal day care program. Heck, our society would benefit.

We know that the first 2000 days of a child’s life is the most important. Those 2000 days make our children who they will be for the rest of their days.

Productive, happy member of society. A socially and emotionally developed child who can take on the stresses of the world.

Canada as a country should push forward to implement a universal child care program. Daycares that are private should be converted to public daycares. We should be following Denmark, Sweden, Norway and many others.

I know what some of you are thinking. Taxes! And you’re right. Our tax bill will probably have to go up to pay for this. But if you look at a place like Denmark where the highest taxes are 52.05% (cited here).

People are happy to pay it. With very inexpensive childcare and free university. The citizens of Denmark know their children, and future, is well taken care of.

Canada could do the same and we would feel the same. Do you think child care in Calgary is too darn high?