How much does it cost to raise a kid? Ottawa doesn't know

A study says Ottawa doesn't have a bead on just how much it costs to raise a child in Canada, prompting some experts to wonder if politics and ideology are trumping evidence when it comes to social policy decisions.

The paper, sponsored by the anti-poverty group Campaign 2000, says governments need a better way of measuring cost to ensure family benefits and anti-poverty initiatives are of help to those who need it the most.

The cost of raising a child ranges from about $5,000 a year to more than $12,000, depending on which estimate one looks at and whether those estimates incorporate variables like child care, transportation, food and housing.

Thanks to a lack of data and no clear consensus on how best to measure the cost, disputes about accuracy abound.

Co-author Sid Frankel of the University of Manitoba says such lack of certainty leaves a lot of leeway for political and ideological preferences to take over and drive policy changes.

The Liberals replaced the previous Conservative government's universal child care benefit with an income-tested one worth about 23 billion dollars a year.

They argue the new Canada Child Benefit provides more money monthly to 87 per cent of families.

But Frankel says without a clear sense of how much it costs families in various places across Canada with a variety of income levels, it's difficult to determine just how much help the benefit provides.