Montreal

Make IVF free again to boost birth rate, CAQ says

Coalition Avenir Québec health critic François Paradis says the Quebec government needs to recognize people's "fundamental right" to have children by restoring full funding for in-vitro fertilization.

Making more babies critical part of preserving Quebec’s identity, according to François Legault

CAQ Leader François Legault told his party at last weekend's convention that supporting the size of the Quebec population was fundamental to preserving Quebec's identity. (Radio-Canada)

Coalition Avenir Québec health critic François Paradis says the Quebec government needs to recognize people's "fundamental right" to have children by restoring full funding for in-vitro fertilization.

In 2010, Quebec began paying the full cost of up to three IVF attempts for anyone covered by the province's health care insurance.

By 2015, that program was costing taxpayers $70 million a year, and the government replaced it with a less generous system of tax credits.

Within months of the funding changes, the number of IVF procedures dropped off dramatically.

"Clearly we have a problem. We have a demographic trend in Quebec that needs to be reversed," said Paradis at a news conference Tuesday.

"[Infertile couples] should not be excluded from this desire to make it so that we, together, increase the Quebec birth rate," Paradis said.

'Defence of Quebec identity'

The birth rate was front and centre at the CAQ's convention last weekend, with leader François Legault pledging to give families a financial incentive to have more children.

"The size of the Quebec population is important for the defence of its identity, if not only because of the demographic weight Quebecers would have within Canada," he said.

Quebec's free in-vitro fertilization program carried a $70-million price tag in 2015, the year it was cancelled. The program helped produce 1,000 children annually. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

Immigration is a good option to deal with this, "if it works," Legault said.  

However, he said, the high unemployment rate of new immigrants and the limited French-language abilities of many newcomers suggest that current policies are a failure.

An outdated idea, says the PQ

Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée also wants to restore publicly funded IVF, however, he calls the CAQ's focus on increasing the birth rate a "solution from the last century."

The Liberals, meanwhile, say the program that produced an average 1,000 babies per year was simply too costly.

Even though the province is in a better financial situation, Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said choices still need to be made.

"The amount of money that is available is not infinite," he said.