Critics have described it as putting a band-aid on a heart attack, but Quebec’s controversial baby bonus program is now in its fifth year and appears to be reaping some positive results. More people were born in this province in 1990 than in any year since 1979, although preliminary statistics indicate that growth may have leveled off in 1991.

As of 1990, the fertility rate in Quebec rose to nearly 1.7 children per woman, up from 1.5 in 1989. Still well below the 2.1 rate required to renew the population, it approaches the Canadian rate 1.8. The fertility rate in Quebec was 1.2 per cent higher in 1989 than in 1987, the year before the bonuses began. Other provinces increased by no more than.6 per cent during the same period.

Incentive bonuses

This may suggest the bonuses are an incentive, but family six does not appear to be growing. Quebeckers seem no more likely to have three or more children than do other Canadians.

Quebec, like the rest of Canada, has its share of bad policies which hurt family life. The same accommodating attitudes toward abortion, homosexuality and secularism prevail.

Yet this typical modernist philosophy coexists with the recognition that stable families are the building blocks of a healthy society. There appears to be a genuine effort to help people who want to have larger families. It is ironic that this province, once known for its big families, must now resort to incentives to encourage couples to have more than one or two children.

The federal family allowance, is supplemented in Quebec by the Quebec Family Allowance. In this province, both allowances are adjusted to the age and number of children in the family. Changes to Canada’s family allowance come into effect January 1993, when the program will no longer be universal, and will take the from of tax credit. The Quebec Family Allowance is non-taxable income and will continue to be universal.

How much?

How much money is involved? The Quebec Family Allowance Plan pays from $10.70 per month for a first child to $21.35 for a fourth or subsequent child. In addition, an allowance for children under six pays from $9.58 for a first child to $47.87 for a third or subsequent child. A further allowance of $111.85 per month is paid for handicapped children. This is in addition to whatever monies are repaid by the federal plan.

Currently, with three young children, the combined allowances (not including the allowance for handicapped children) pay over $250 per month; with four young children the allowances exceed $400 per month. This is obviously a very significant contribution to the family budge.
What has captured all the attention. However, is Quebec’s special Allowance for Newborns, the so-called baby bonus. The amount paid is $500 when a first child is born ( or adopted) and $100 9in two payments) when a second child is born. The bonus for a third child, and each one after, is $400 per quarter for five years, a total of $8000.

“ Through this financial contribution, the Quebec government wishes to show its appreciation for the role you play a parent in the development of our society,” says Andre Bourbeau, Minister of Manpower, Income Security and Skills Development, in a form letter received recently following the birth of our fourth child.

To this extent, the plan must be considered successful. Although those of us with larger families; i.e. more than two children, must endure a certain amount of kidding about the “huge” bonuses we receive, the fact of affirmation that raising families is something of value to society. Let’s face it: money talks! The statistics tell us that, perhaps, people are listening.