This post is a take off from the comment left by Amabelley (ok partly cuz my comments are messed up and show up blank when submitted from this computer, but mostly because she poses a good question). Yes it would be cheaper to raise a child in Canada. Housing is a lot cheaper. Shaky, $500K USD gets you a starter home or, more likely, townhouse here in the Bay Area. It's ridiculous. But then I've heard that houses (real houses) are going for about that much in Vancouver and even Burnaby (just outside Vancouver). Of course that's in CAD though, but it's all relative to your income, which is a lot smaller in Canada, while income tax is a lot higher (yes higher than in CA).
Regarding health care. Yes it rocks in Canada. If you have a benefits plan from work you walk in with your medicare card and there's no co-pays for appointments. No hassle but you do need a referal for specialists unlike the PPO plan here. If you are unemployed it's something like $30/mo CAD max (I think less) for the same health care. Again no co-pays. When I first moved here I could not understand what HMO, PPO and co-pay meant. Oh yeah mat leave in Canada is ONE YEAR. But then I'm not sure there's as many American style mega-corporations like Genentech with their onsite day cares and stuff which are great. Unfortunately, I hear the health care thing is in some jeopardy and a co-pay system was being considered so that people stop going in to see their doctor for a damn hangnail.
As for education, based on what I see of the kids I tutor here and the hatred of some of the parents for their teachers/schools, I'd have to say Canada's is better. I think they allow a much greater budget for education so that teachers aren't trying to run a class while stressed about their own personal finances all the time. From what I recall there were also a lot of specialized programs for special needs, and gifted children back home. Maybe they have those here, but I'm not sure. It also seems like education is more inclusive -- learning about world events, Canada's history of discrimination, geography etc. I find the social studies program here is very US-focussed and I've read that a lot of the dirty stuff like the Chinese exclusion act and Chinese contribution to the nation's railroads, etc is glossed over/skipped to the dismay of minority students.
University used to be way cheaper but the tuition freeze lifted after I graduated so I think it's comparable to state schools here, but the campuses are not nearly as run down as say SF or SJ State. My school (SF State) still uses a building that was slated for demolition after the '89 earthquake. Looks like such a shithole. Also, my profs back home never bitched about how little the school is paying them (I hear that a lot here, it gets annoying). But there seem to be more contemporary and diverse programs here in universities e.g. ethnic studies, industrial design, broadcasting etc.
But what is great here -- weather, career opportunities (just not that many companies in Canada by comparison), faster life, more ambitious people, more things to do socially (in Vancouver, you walk into a club/bar and you're mostly surrounded by 19 -25 year olds because people my age have started families), active arts community, larger population in general. Plus litttle things e.g. you order stuff online and actually get it shipped to your home, DJs and bands always make a stop in SF when they tour, there's a lot more variety in clothing and shoes here (shopping in Canada sucks so bad).