The structure of child care services in Canada is pretty much the same as in the United States. There are generally, as noted by the noders above, several different ways in which a child may be cared for my someone other than the parent. However, there are two principal points I would like to bring up about the Canadian system:
  1. During the last two federal elections, child care was a moderate to major issue. Most parties agreed that a national child care program and policy was sorely needed, and that there should be more subsidized spaces in general. These government regulated child care facilities should, by everyone's estimation, be available to low-income families and single parent families in order to help/permit these people to look for and obtain regular work. Despite the fact that the public pressure and desire exists, no action has been taken to date. In fact, the number of federally regulated child care spaces has declined in six provinces over the past decade. At present, around 10% of those children in child care are in a federally regulated program. Furthermore, only 17.5% of the funding for child care facilities comes from government sources; the rest is either private concerns or fees paid by the parents.
  2. The one notable exception to this above trend is the province of Quebec. In the last couple of years, the province took the position that government-regulated child care should be accessible to all (no preferential selection based on income) and should be available at $5/day (as opposed to the other provinces, where parents pay ~$450 per month). The delivery of this child care is performed by the government organizations called les Centres de la Petite Enfance (CPE). The spaces available for children (limited to those pre-kindergarten ages) can be either in a day care setting (60-100 children) or in-home (9 children maximum for two workers).
    It is worth noting, however, that the government has not decided to make this day care universally available. That is, the waiting lists for most CPEs are on the order of 12-24 months, and as such for-profit day cares are still doing quite nicely.
In the past twelve months, the province of British Colombia has been undertaking a similar procedure, but from personal communication I know that it presently is only implemented half-way and is buried in a quagmire of administrative problems.