A Look at Child Care Fee Subsidy in Toronto

Posted on Jul 22, 2017

Child care cost is one of the key component of expenses of a family. It becomes more crucial for families, where each parent is not available to take care of their child and cannot afford to pay the full amount of the child care tuition. Child care fee subsidy in Canada is the main child care financing of each province introduced in the Canada Assistance Plan  in 1972.  Eligible families pay the child care cost depending on the income level. Certain conditions in terms of unavailability of each parent are listed in City of Toronto's website as the following.

  1. Each parent is either:
    • employed,
    • looking for work,
    • in school or planning to go to school, or
    • if their child has a special need.
  2. Eligible income range for child care fee subsidy in the City of Toronto is up to $73,000. Families with lower income ranges are eligible for larger amount of fee subsidy.

This shiny application aims to visualize the effectiveness of child care fee subsidy using dataset from the City of Toronto open data catalogue. The application has three purposes. First, the user can find the child care centre depending on his or her preferences on the location, subsidy choice, and the type of child care centre. Second, child care centres can be listed through the data explorer section, where the user can filter the results based on the location, subsidy, and type of child care centre choice. Finally, key insights from the dataset are provided to make the decision on how effective the fee subsidy program in the City of Toronto is at policy level.

This application can be reached from https://mustafakoroglu.shinyapps.io/toronto_child_care_study/.

The R codes and dataset can be found on my GitHub repository.



The main data used in this shiny application is the Licensed Child Care Centres dataset of City of Toronto. It includes 1007 child care centres classified in 4 districts, which consists of 44 wards in the City of Toronto. Each centre is listed under one of the three types:  city-operated, commercial, and non-profit. Dataset also includes number of spaces for each child class: infant, toddler, preschooler, kindergarten, and grade 1+.

Another two datasets, Licensed Child Care Spaces and Wait List for Fee Subsidy, are related to the number of child spaces and number of children on the wait list for fee subsidy from January 2013 to April 2017. These monthly data allows me to visualize the overall picture of the fee subsidy program.

Interactive Map

The user can explore the child care centres based on the choices listed on the right panel. The user can filter the centres depending on his or her location preference and whether to look for a centre that accepts fee subsidy contract. Each child care centre is colored by its type to make the visual comparison easier. Moreover, when the centre is clicked, the information box shows up with its relevant information including centre's name, address, phone number, total child spaces, and whether to have fee subsidy contract with the City of Toronto.

Data Explorer

In this tab, the user can search the detail information about the child centres that he or she is interested in. The first selection box allows the user to select further choices from two other conditional selection boxes. This table provides more information about the child care centres including how many spaces they have for each child categories, its building type, and building name, among others.

Key Insights

This section provides some insights on how the effectiveness of the fee subsidy program is related to the number of child care centres across districts and centre types. First, I aim to visualize the aspects of child care centres for the City of Toronto. I use the Google pie chart to show the numbers for each group interactively. The Google line chart plots the number of child spaces and the number of children on the wait list for the period from January 2013 to April 2017. This line chart yet alone may not be enough to evaluate the effectiveness of the fee subsidy program, but gives some understanding of the relationship between them.

From the line chart, we see that there is a clear seasonal increase in the number of child spaces in each year. Since the data reports total number of child spaces regardless of its availability, these seasonal increases can be interpreted from two possible views: opening of new child care centres and increase in the capacity of existing child care centres. On the other hand, number of children on the fee subsidy wait list slightly fluctuated between January 2014 to May 2015. After June 2015, it had a sharp decrease, which corresponds to the increase in total child spaces in September 2015. But the adverse relationship between the two series after April 2016 may be explained by the international relations and immigration policies. I will further shed some light on this point with the National Household Survey 2016 of Statistics Canada using population statistics for age groups. Lastly, the line chart allows the user to zoom in the chart and focus on specific pattern in both series.

In this part, the dataset can be briefly analyzed as the following. 677 child care centres, which consists of 67.2% of all centres, have a fee subsidy contract with the City of Toronto. 668 child care centres are non-profit, while 530 of them have fee subsidy contract. There is only 53 city-operated child care centres with having fee subsidy contract. City of Toronto consists of 286 commercial child care centres, where 94 of them have fee subsidy contract.

The second part of this section compares the number of child spaces and child centres for each district, centre type, and subsidy contract type.  We can compare the change in number of child care centres across districts depending on fee subsidy contract for each centre type. It can be observed that non-profit child care centres increase a lot in each of the district. For commercial type, there is a substantial increase observed for Toronto East York (downtown region) and North York. For better comparison, the proportions will be added to the selection options.



Another barplot in this section can give a comparison of number of child spaces for each child category in each district and centre type. We can see that non-profit centres offer child cares for all child categories in each district. Commercial type centres provide child care mainly for only infant, toddler, and preschooler.





Investigating the effectiveness of fee subsidy program is multidimensional. It is related to the data on the details of fee subsidy applications in the City of Toronto as well as the fee subsidy policy of child care centres and how many spaces are reserved for children with fee subsidy in these centres. Furthermore, Census 2016 can be used to uncover some demographic features in each district and their wards. This may help us to see which wards need more child care centres with fee subsidy contract. These possible extensions will certainly improve this application.


About Author

Mustafa Koroglu

Mustafa Koroglu is a post-doctoral fellow in Global Health Policy Lab focusing on survey data analysis to explain global health shocks to health care utilization. He believes in data-driven decisions and policy implications. He is an active learner...
View all posts by Mustafa Koroglu >

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