They’re (finally) mating



In Quebec, prodigious baby-making fell out of fashion almost as quickly as Duplessis and the Catholic church. Losing religion (and mildly despotic premiers) and finding contraception had a predictable outcome: in under two decades, the birthrate went from the highest to the lowest in the country–and one of the lowest in the world. If it was really the land where, according to a funny “I Am Canadian” spoof, “everyone is shacking up”, the act remained largely consequence-free.

It’s been a wholly different story over the past six years, though, as the birthrate has slowly but surely crept up. Today, a milestone, of sorts: the average baby-to-mommy ratio is 1.74, or exactly 0.36 of a baby under what would be needed for positive population growth. And–not to worry, pûr lainers–it seems it is les mammans de souche, and not recent arrivals to the province, who are pumping them out: according to Quebec statistics, the highest birthrates are in the sticks, where immigrants have yet to tread.

The solution, it turned out, was a brace of big ol’ taxpayer-sponsored, big-government programs brought into place by those nasty separatists. Ten years ago, as Minister of Child and Family Welfare, Pauline Marois launched the province-wide $5-a-day daycare system. It has its flaws, no doubt–though mostly due to its own success, as there are scarcely enough spots. I knew there was a reason I paid taxes.

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They’re (finally) mating

  1. So I guess Lucien Bouchard saying Québécois were « une des races blanches qui avaient le moins d’enfants » is no longer valid?

  2. The welfare state is a pyramid scheme which needs a constantly increasing number of net taxpayers to pay for the benefits of the oldsters who voted themselves said benefits.

    But the existence of state welfare benefits removes the incentive to actually bear children and raise them. The taxes make it too expensive to do so, and the free benefits mean that you no longer need children to take of you in your old age anyways.

    It is therefore in the best financial interest of each individual not to have kids but to live a carefree life with no children and no savings, and then vote themselves free health care, subsidized food, housing, etc. in old age. These generous benefits are of course to be paid for by *other* people’s children. But since nobody is motivated to raise children to pay for everyone else’s benefits, then what?

    You can try to fill the bottom layer of the pyramid by importing large numbers of new taxpayers from foreign countries -but then how do you stop them from bringing along with them their own old-aged benefit-receiving relatives? How do assure that these “new taxpayers” actually have the ability and the opportunity to get high-paying jobs so that they can become fully-qualified taxpayers? Why would they agree to be tax slaves to pay for other people’s old age benefits? How do you keep them from receiving citizenship and then applying for welfare themselves? Or getting citizenship and then going back home to earn money and pay (lower) taxes in their original homeland?

    Or if you dislike the thought of importing hundreds of thousands of “new taxpayers” every year, then you can use welfare benefits to try to induce the public to have more children. But if you’re giving away welfare money to people to have children, then there will be no more money left to pay for old-age benefits, which was the reason for needing more children in the first place.

    Finally you arrive at the Quebec solution. Give generous benefits to oldsters, and also pay generous welfare to youngsters so that they have more children. Then use the federal transfer and equalization rules to ensure that your large and impoverished population can live comfortably off other provinces’ taxpayers. But this doesn’t stop the pyramid from collapsing, it just delays it until the other provinces’ taxpayers get wise and eventually stop working and stop having kids.

    It turns out that the only thing that really works, that’s sustainable and humane, is for people to take care of their own needs and to help unfortunate and impoverished neighbors through small-scale, local, voluntary charity. Anything else leads to economic collapse.

    It’s those danged laws of economics again. Free markets 1, welfare state 0.

    • Oompus: so Quebeckers are currently having more babies so they can have more subsidies, that’s what you say?

      • Welfare is not the only reason for having babies, nor are taxes and government old-age benefits the only reason for not having them. When you subsidize something you get more of it. When you tax something you get less of it. The question is, what is balanced and fair?

        A government bureaucracy which tries to plan the number of babies and the amount of wages, savings, health care, etc. is incapable of either balance or fairness. That is why western democracies are sliding into fiscal and demographic ruin, with crumbling infrastructure and political and social instability to boot.

        • Oompus, my question stands: *are quebeckers having more babies so they can have more subsidies*? The following paragraph made me ask that question:

          “Finally you arrive at the Quebec solution. Give generous benefits to oldsters, and also pay generous welfare to youngsters so that they have more children. Then use the federal transfer and equalization rules to ensure that your large and impoverished population can live comfortably off other provinces’ taxpayers. But this doesn’t stop the pyramid from collapsing, it just delays it until the other provinces’ taxpayers get wise and eventually stop working and stop having kids.”

    • But oompus, everybody knows that Québec independence would be so wonderful for Québec because there would be an end to paying taxes to Ottawa! And everybody knows that because that is the line the séparatistes have been selling for decades!

      Don’t you dare translate that little bit of realism into French, my friend. Québec couldn’t handle one case of head trauma on Mt. Tremblant — imagine the mess if so many heads explode at once!

  3. I thought it was the paternal leave stuff that Charest copied ffrom France that did it – not the child care.

    • It doesn’t apply only to fathers; it actually significantly boosted the plan across the board. But it did had a pretty big effect, maybe larger than the daycare… That being said, a fair amount of the current surge seems to be coming from a crossover effect:

      -“older” (30+) women “catching up”; the younger than 25 years old was the group of women where the downturn in birth ratio was the most dramatic over the last 40 years, and the 20-30 cohorts of 15-10 years ago were at an all time low… Seems they are going at ot now…
      -“Younger” women (-25) picking up the pace.

      The second point may be sustainable, but seeing that the overall family sizes arent increasing that much, I think we will eventually see a regression in the first group. Anyways, the parental leave reform of the Charest gov. sure sparked the big boost when it kicked in.

  4. Quebec systems of maternity/paternity leave and subsidized kindergarden should be a model for the Western World. I live in a US state where we pay up to 42% taxes, 10% sales tax and on top of that, having children means daycare/kindergarden at 15K per child per year. And I wont talk about the crumbling public education system which keeps pumping out low performers. I could always send them to private school at 25K per child… The Quebec model is proof that governments can encourage people to have kids without ruining its budget.

    • Quebec is also one of the poorest jurisdictions in the US and Canada. So the Quebec model shows that you can ruin the budget. And don’t forget, a large part of Quebec’s revenues come from the rest of Canada as equalization.

      • Poorest doesn’t mean much when you take into account the cost of life. Someone can have 2-3 kids, a big house and 2 cars in Quebec with one average income while the same would require 2 combined higher income in some US states.

        As for the US rate, remove latinos and recent immigrants and it would drop big time. I am not sure why you seem so against these government measures to encourage families. Did you know that mother and father in Quebec can take a combined 12 months of well paid family leave? Try to do that in US without losing your job. Working women brag of being back to work the month after while father bring their laptop to work in the hospital…great role model for Quebec people.

        • The 12 months of leave are paid for by other people. Do you think the money falls out of trees? What’s so special about that? Once you deduct the salaries of the people taking the money from one person and sending to another, it’s actually less money than before.

          Secondly, Quebec has more immigrants than most states, most from places of high birthrates, so your Latino argument is bull. But keep on believing falsehoods if that’s what it takes to cement your religious fervor.

          And your mumbo-jumbo about cost of life is just that: mumbo jumbo.

          Quebec is not poorest after-tax. Quebec is poorest before-tax. Quebec’s overall production per capita is lower than almost all jurisdictions in the US and Canada. And for that you can blame big government.

          I am against the measures because they are pointless. They will serve to make a small temporary bump. The long-term effects of such programs are increased poverty in Quebec, and more equalization flowing in from the rest of the country.

  5. 1.74 is nothing to crow about, the figure for the entire United States is 2.1.

    And they don’t need taxpayer-sponsored, big-government programs to do it.

    Go figure.

    The 1.7 figure is a temporary blip, as people waiting for years to be able to afford children all took advantage of the baby bonuses. The surge will be over in a few years, and it’ll be back down to the lowest rate in Canada.

    • I don’t think widespread teenage pregnancy is a good policy for Canada.

      • Do you have a point?

  6. Like pandas, Quebecers lose their interest in mating once in captivity.

    • Roman Catholic Church captivity: multiplied like rabbits, not pandas.
      Socialist-democrat captivity with a nationalistic flair: empty wombs.
      Socialist-democrat captivity with a nationalistic flair but with minor bribes of taxpayer’s own money: a little boomlet.
      Add the explosion of contraceptive choices in there between points one and two, and there’s a sociology master’s thesis to churn out this weekend.

      And now for the moral questions. Is it fair to your own kid to reproduce, given the amount of debt you know this new citizen is inheriting? Is it fair to the current greedy generation, desperate for a next generation to support itself under the play-now-pay-later plan, not to reproduce? These very questions do not shine the current greedy generation with glory. The answers to these questions make us look even worse.

      • I think that Canada probably needs more babies to cope with the shifting demographics. Sure, these kids will be inheriting lots of debt, but the alternative (not making enough babies) is even worse for the long-term health of the population.

        • So the rational choice of the well-off is to go childless, and the rational choice of the not-so-well off is enjoy the subsidies of child-bearing and -rearing, that they may one day produce the worker class to subsidize their retirement.

          Anyone want to take such a society twenty-plus-years down this road?

  7. ooh,

    looks like the federalists on this board are frustrated that their attempts to bully and slander Quebec into submission to the Canadian federation are not working and that Quebec, aided by the sovereignists, are taking positive steps to solve its problems. Eventually, Quebec will realise that it would prosper and do better without Canada.

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