Cardus: Daycare Vacancy Rates in British Columbia: The Untold Story
For decades now, Canadians have been hearing there is a shortage of daycare spaces. It seems that no matter the city or province, the urgent-shortage storyline remains the same.
In fact, the empirical evidence contradicts this narrative. In two jurisdictions—the City of Toronto and the province of British Columbia—daycare vacancy rates are persistent and growing.
In April 2017, we re-investigated the City of Toronto, where the space surplus grew by 45 percent between 2009 and 2016. In Toronto, in the first three months of 2017, the average number of vacant daycare spaces was more than 4,600.1
While this finding contradicts the usual narrative, it is based on data from a publicly available Ministry of Children and Family Development Performance Management Report.2
Given the concern for evidence-based policy, high vacancy rates expose a shortage of demand rather than a shortage of supply. In British Columbia, the disparate vacancy rates among jurisdictions also indicate a need to consider how best to use allocated child care funds more efficiently. After all, “[e]fficient use of child care spaces will be reflected in high utilization rates,” the report’s authors write.3
This article first examines the data showing daycare vacancies in British Columbia. Second, we’ll examine why those vacancies exist. Finally, we’ll discuss some of the possible reasons why we hear only about a shortage, and we’ll present new policy recommendations.