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The Evolution and the Transformation of Québec’s Family Policy since 1997

Sophie Mathieu, Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay

Research Framework: The consensus established around the exceptionalism of Quebec family policy conceals certain issues and challenges related to the accessibility and availability of support measures for families.
Objectives: Our objective is to propose a reflection on the universal character often attributed to Quebec family policy by documenting the evolution of the architecture of the three main measures of support to families since 1997, namely child care services, parental leave, and cash benefits.
Methodology: The analysis is based on a systematic review of archives, government documents, and scientific research on the evolution and transformation of Quebec family policy. The starting point for the analysis is the examination of the White Paper Nouvelles dispositions de la politique familiale: les enfants au cœur de nos choix.
Results: Despite its social democratic leanings, Quebec’s family policy is not universal as a whole and not all families are equal in the support they receive from the State. We show the historical existence of four childcare regimes, defined by the nature of the services being offered, their costs, and the possibility of having access to them. We also show that the architecture of the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan does not allow every parent to qualify to receive parental benefits. Finally, we show that while all families have received cash benefits since 2005, the amount of these benefits has varied by income.
Conclusions: Although Quebec offers a generous family policy, the province is not entirely immune to the characteristics of the Canadian liberal welfare regime.
Contribution: The article contributes to the reflection on the idea of Quebec having a universal family policy.