By the time you read this, I may have already mailed in my applications for both Newfoundland and Labrador's Progressive Family Growth Benefit (a tidy lump sum of $1,000) and the accompanying Parental Support Benefit program (12 monthly payments of $100). Naturally. I'm not the sort of fertile woman to look a gift horse (or a cash cow) in the mouth.
It was September 2007 when I first heard Premier Danny Williams propose giving parents $1,000 for each new child born in the province. I admit I felt the urge right there and then - and not just because Danny looked darn good in his suit on the TV and my husband was away working his six and two in Alberta, either.
At that point, Blair and I had been married for 17 years; I was 37 and he was pushing 40. We had a ten-year-old son (born in Ontario) who had long since given up asking mommy and daddy for a sibling. We had been living back in Newfoundland for four years and there was little doubt that time had flown quickly past. If not now, when?
Danny's $1,000 campaign teaser was like a sign to me. It showed he has faith in the future of Newfoundland and Labrador, even as economists and columnists everywhere keep us well aware of the dour state of our demographics.
That Williams, a businessman at heart, is not the type to pour money into a losing venture. His willingness to invest in the future of our province got me thinking. Though I wasn't prepared to procreate whilst singing the Ode to Newfoundland, I felt that I wasn’t totally committing to my life here if I did not at least consider having another child.
I called my husband that night and asked him if he wanted to make a quick grand. But what started out as a joke quickly turned serious. Pushing aside the promise of the baby bonus, it all came down to this: Why not try and just see what happens?
His next trip home we gave it a go. A few weeks later, it was confirmed: I was due to deliver our second child in July 2008.
Now that I was pregnant, the baby bonus became a running joke. We teased that if Williams's campaign promise came true we would name the baby Danny or Danielle in the premier's honour. When the plan was finally announced and we realized we would be entitled to the money we were thrilled, and the joking stopped.
The program has a fixed start-date; parents of children born after January 1, 2008 get a cheque. This is a sore spot for some who just missed the deadline. One friend, who had given birth in late November this year, felt a bit cheated. She had celebrated that $1,000 campaign promise as much as I had. But everything has a cutoff date. If you miss it, rest assured that good things will come your way nonetheless. My own fortunate timing with this pregnancy helps make up for the one-year paid maternity leave, legislated mere months before my firstborn, I never got in Ontario.
A few things about the baby bonus plan might not be perfect and perhaps in a year or two it might be modified. Still, I think the Williams government did exactly what it set out to do. It got people talking about making babies. And for some couples, like us, it did a little more than that.
Pam Pardy-Ghent is a freelance writer living in rural Newfoundland.