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Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: The Winnipeg Project: Childcare Research as a Tool for Development: A Social and Economic Impact Study of Childcare in Winnipeg

Project status

Completed June, 2004

Lead Agency

Child Care Coalition of Manitoba, funded by Status of Women Canada Women’s Program

Contact Person

Susan Prentice, Ph.D.
Winnipeg Research Project
Principal Investigator & Professor
Sociology, University of Manitoba
Women and Social Justice Office
329 Isbister Building
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, R3T 2N2
Tel: (204) 474-6726 (voice-mail)
Fax: (204) 261-1216

Research Firm

Statistics Canada (national agency)


  • Number of Establishments
  • Child Care Labor Force
  • Children Served
  • Gross Receipts
  • Number of Parents with Children in Paid Care
  • Multiplier Effects on Local Economy
  • Governmental Transfers / Subsidies


  • Long Report (15+ Pages)
  • Newspaper Article / Media Coverage
  • Conducted a Series of Presentations
  • Sent Out an Outreach Letter
  • Involved Business / Economic Development

Case Study

Case Study: Winnipeg , Manitoba Canada
“Time for Action: An Economic and Social Analysis of Childcare in Winnipeg”
Date of Study Completion: May 2004



The Winnipeg , Manitoba study was prepared by the Child Care Coalition of Manitoba. The Child Care Coalition of Manitoba is a community-based group that represents multiple stakeholders in the child care system, including parents, child care workers, women’s groups, and unions. A second provincial group, the Manitoba Childcare Association, lobbies extensively around workforce issues, so the Child Care Coalition decided to concentrate on bringing other issues to the political agenda, such as questions of access, fees, and quality. The Child Care Coalition has been active since 1994.

The Coalition created a 15-member advisory committee to guide the project, representing such diverse stakeholders as the business community, education and training, the voluntary sector, the Aboriginal community, children’s services, Franco-Manitobans, elected officials, and labor and women’s organizations. The Advisory committee met four times throughout the year-long effort, provided strategic advice and helped to develop the recommendations for action presented in the report.


While the Child Care Coalition is a provincial organization – focusing on issues of interest to the entire province of Manitoba - they chose for their study to focus on the city of Winnipeg , as 60% of the province’s population is in Winnipeg . The study is intended to be a strategic intervention to move public policy, as it was conducted in a period when Winnipeg had a prominent left-wing mayor in power. Susan Prentice explained, “We were trying to find a strategy that would get our one big city and our one progressive mayor to take child care as a serious matter of economic urban development, so that they would then be a force that the province would have to reckon with.”

The Winnipeg study, while in some ways similar to other studies in methodology and concept, is quite unique in that it comes out of a Canadian political and social framework. While many American studies advocate public-private partnerships and increased private sector spending as a solution, the Canadian perspective differs. As Susan Prentice, Principal Investigator and lead author of the study

explained, “That’s a very American solution. It’s not true in Canada. We see…child care as a public good, and we support public goods with public funds. It’s a government responsibility. The research diagnoses the same problem…lack of affordability, lack of access, lack of quality, hardships for parents, costs to children, gender impacts, businesses suffer when they can’t find and keep trained people… [However] we’re very clear…the remedy for this comes from the state.” As evidence of this difference, in 2000 the Federation of Canadian Municipalities declared that all children are entitled to quality child care, and called for a universal, not-for-profit national child care program.

The Study:

Sector Definition

The study focuses on the regulated child care sector, which includes a range of early learning and care services for children ages 0-12. These include part-day nurseries (akin to American ‘preschools’), and full and part-time child day care centers, and family day care homes. While the report acknowledges that more children use informal care than regulated care, the Child Care Coalition has a strong policy preference for publicly funded and regulated care, and wanted to support that preference through their study.

Data Analysis

Measurement* Winnipeg
Number of Establishments 621
Child Care Labor Force 3,236
Children Served 16,749
Gross Receipts $101.6 million
Number of Parents with Children in Paid Care X
Multiplier Effects on Local Economy X
Governmental Transfers / Subsidies X
Tax Receipts / Fiscal Impact  

*Not all studies included the same components making it difficult to compare the numbers provided in this chart with those of other studies. In its definition of the number of establishments, this study included licensed and regulated center and family care, and pre-k in public schools, and did not include regulation-exempt home-based care (informal care). In its definition of gross receipts, this study included provider charges (parents fees and vouchers in lieu of parent fees), provider subsidies and government funded programs.

The Coalition used Input/Output analysis to estimate the impact of the regulated child care sector on the local economy, finding that the multiplier was 1.38 in the province of Manitoba , and 1.45 to Canada as a whole. This analysis relied on data including number of establishments, gross receipts, public funding, and number of child care spaces. The study also reported information on household characteristics and parental income, derived from Census data.

The difference between American and Canadian political and social frameworks made research and measurement challenging in some respects. While many American studies quote the Perry preschool numbers to explain the long-term benefits of child care, there isn’t a parallel Canadian study using Canadian figures to assess child development benefits and savings. Susan Prentice explained, “Your education and health and welfare and criminal justice systems are so different than ours. We couldn’t use Perry Preschool numbers…none of the data were reliable for us.” There is a Canadian cost-benefit study (Cleveland and Krashinsky, 1998) that determined a 2:1 return on investment, based on similar long term returns as found in the Perry Preschool study.

Unique findings

The study was able to document the inequitable distribution of services in Winnipeg . It found that the reliance on the voluntary or private sector was dysfunctional, because neighborhoods with higher levels of social capital tended to have greater access to the necessary resources and skills to start a small business. This finding was spatially displayed in maps in the report.

  • The study demonstrated that more affluent neighborhoods have more child care services while poorer neighborhoods have less child care services. 
  • The distribution of types of child care facilities also varies by ward. For example, one ward, Elmwood, has three times as many family day care homes as in any of the other wards. 
  • The rate of licensed group and family spaces as a percentage of the child population in each ward differed by ward; and by rate of low-income families.

The Coalition hoped that displaying information by city wards would enable elected ward councilors to become aware of the distribution of child care services in their ward. Susan Prentice referred to this strategy as “mapping onto people’s political responsibilities”.


Organizational Change and Outreach

Outreach surrounding the project began in the development stages of the study, as the Coalition held consultations with 13 community groups, from 10 of Winnipeg’s 15 wards. They used the consultations both to raise community interest in the report, and to bring individual voices and perspectives to the statistical findings that the report presents. As the report developed they were also able to get feedback on their findings from the community groups.

Unfortunately, the launch of the study in May 2004 did not receive the attention that it deserved, as during the same week Winnipeg’s mayor announced that he would be stepping down in order to run in the federal elections (unsuccessfully, as it turned out). The Child Care Coalition is now focusing on ways to re-energize people around the study. On reflection, following the completion of the study, Susan Prentice states, “I would build in more dissemination/outreach/distribution time than we did. We basically had only 4 weeks of staff time after the report was released to do all of the dissemination, after that it falls back to volunteers. We’ve been encouraged by our funder – bless them – to apply for follow-up funds to hire a staff person again to actually work with the volunteer group to shop it around, to make presentations, and to try to build momentum for our recommendation.” Current outreach and publicity efforts include newspaper, radio, and magazine coverage, a project website, and the distribution of over 1300 copies of the report’s 2,000 copy print run. The Coalition has relied on connections held by various members of the Advisory Council to help distribute the report to business and government officials. Susan Prentice also wrote directly to the Premier and Mayor, with a copy of the report, as the recommendation is jointly addressed to them, and is awaiting official response from the City. The report has had some national distribution.


With its focus on government responsibility for child care, the Winnipeg study calls for targeted action from the Premier of Manitoba and the Mayor of Winnipeg. The study argues that the public, private, and voluntary sectors need to integrate child care in their economic and community planning, policies and programs. In particular, the Child Care Coalition calls for the creation of a Childcare Task Force to be led by a Chair or co-Chairs with extensive experience in Winnipeg’s public, private, or voluntary sector. The Task Force is mandated:

  • To invite members from a range of Winnipeg communities to join; 
  • To document the current and potential economic and social effects of childcare in Winnipeg , including an analysis of cost, availability, accessibility, quality, inclusion and cultural sensitivity; 
  • To develop--within twelve months -- a “Childcare Agenda for Winnipeg ”, which includes appropriate ways to integrate child care into cross-sectoral policy and planning for economic and community development and social infrastructure.

In November, 2004, Winnipeg was the site of the National Conference, Child Care for a Change, which was held to discuss how Canada would target a major $5 billion national initiative to strengthen access to universal high quality, developmental child care for Canada ’s children.

Interview with:
Susan Prentice, Ph.D.
Winnipeg Research Project
University of Manitoba
Summer 2004


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