Nfld. & Labrador

Tories offer baby bonus to turn around N.L. population

Newfoundland and Labrador's governing Progressive Conservatives are pledging to turn around the province's sagging population by cutting cheques to new parents.

Newfoundland and Labrador's governing Progressive Conservatives are pledging to turn around the province's sagging population by cutting cheques to new parents.

LeaderDanny Williams said a PC government will pay $1,000 for each child born or adopted "to promote higher birth rates and population expansion."

Newfoundland and Labrador's population has been dropping since the fisheries collapse of the early 1990s, and last year the province became the first jurisdiction in Canada to record more deaths than live births.

"We can't be a dying race," Williams said Tuesday, while releasing the Progressive Conservative party's platform for the Oct. 9 general election.

"We can't be in a situation where our population is shrinking, where we have more people dying than are being born."

Newfoundland and Labrador, which recorded more than 15,000 births per year during the early 1960s, has had a plummeting birth rate over two generations.

For a 12-month period ended in June 2006, the province had 4,368 births, which were overshadowed by 4,494 deaths, Statistics Canada reported.

In addition to the one-time payment, the Tories are promising a parental leave subsidy of $100 per month — to be added to employment insurance benefits — and to make day care more available and more affordable.

The policies are similar to those adopted in Quebec and in some European countries.

"It's a care problem and an economic problem, and it's a significant factor, because of the cost and the responsibility of raising children in the modern world," Williams said.

"So we're attempting to do something about that."

The most recent Statistics Canadaestimate of Newfoundland and Labrador's population is 506,548, as of April. The census in 1991 recorded a peak of about 568,000 residents.

Platform tackles crime, health issues

Meanwhile, the Tory platform covers an array of issues, ranging from broadband internet access in rural areas to cutting waiting times for medical services.

Among others things, theTories are planning to add funding to recruit an extra 10 officers per year, over three years, to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

The number of RNC officers dedicated to drug enforcement will be doubled, and a special unit will be created to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.

On health care, the government is committing to build a new acute-care hospital in Corner Brook — with about $150 million earmarked— to replace the aging Western Memorial Hospital.

To address medical shortages, the government intends to expand enrolment in Memorial University's medical school by 30 per cent over a five-year period. Enrolment,now at60, will jump to 78.