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Canadian women are having fewer babies than they want: Report

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About half of Canadian women end up having fewer children than they want and it’s making them less satisfied with life, according to a recent research report from Cardus, a faith-based think tank.

Women in Canada have 0.5 fewer children than they hoped for, on average, and polling conducted by Cardus found that the main reason for the disparity is the pervasive idea that children are burdensome and that parenting is massively time-consuming.

“What we’re finding is that there is this extraordinary perception of parenting as something that only the most talented, hardworking, competent people who’ve already achieved everything in life can do,” said Lyman Stone, a senior fellow at Cardus and the author of the report.

In the report, Stone argues that having children has become a “capstone” achievement, which comes after other life goals are completed, rather than something that happens during that journey. With people increasingly having children later, it means there are “too few economically stable years left to achieve the families they want,” argues Stone.

The main reasons for putting off or not having children, according to the report, are wanting to grow as a person, a desire to save money, a need to focus on career, and the idea that kids require intensive care.

Another culprit identified in the report is our relatively new norm around “intensive parenting” could be discouraging potential parents from taking the plunge. Most of the objections women expressed in the survey were about how much time and energy kids take up.

We need to do a better job of explaining to people that the relatively recent phenomenon of high-intensity parenting isn’t necessarily the best or only way to raise children, said Stone.

“That’s kind of the increasingly the norm out there, and we’re gently pushing back saying, actually, there’s a variety of different ways to parent. Not everyone parents that intensively,” said Stone.

Recent research about intensive parenting shows some benefits, including giving kids a stronger sense of individuality and time management skills, along with some downsides, including lower self-reliance.

It has also raised concerns that an expectation of high-intensity parenting could lead to inequality, where developed countries increasingly see people with higher incomes having children. That concern is echoed in Stone’s paper.

When the Cardus polling is broken down by income brackets, Canada stands out as an anomaly, with richer Canadians having more children.

The declining birth rate in developed countries has sparked concerns about how a smaller population base will support its aging population and has even provoked a pro-natal movement among tech elites, including Tesla and Space-X founder Elon Musk.

“There are not enough people. One of the biggest risks to civilization is the low birth rate. Please look at the numbers. If people don’t have enough children, civilization is going to crumble,” said Musk in 2021.

Last year, Canada’s birth rate hit a record low.

Although there are some who celebrate the low birth rate, and others who see it as a harbinger of peril, the Cardus paper sticks narrowly to the question of whether or not society is helping women meet their family formation goals.

Stone said there is no silver bullet if governments in Canada wanted to increase the fertility rate, but rather a series of policies that could work at the margins.

In the Cardus paper, Stone points to broader economic improvements, many of which are already hot-button topics in Canada, like increasing housing supply and boosting economic growth, both of which could make parenting more affordable.

More targeted policies aimed at parents, like child benefits and high-quality education, may also help. Stone said his research suggests that the massive increase in remote work sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic is pro-natal and could be one way for employers to support working parents.

“Some of the most determinative factors for fertility are about culture. And what they really relate to is the extent to which parents experience societal support for their choice,” said Stone.

Federal government asked why a Chinese state-owned company was awarded a contract for RCMP communications

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Canada’s relationship with China saw major developments last week, beginning with questions surrounding Chinese government access to sensitive Canadian infrastructure, and ending with suspected Chinese surveillance balloons wafting through Canadian airspace.

Last Monday, the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology (INDU) heard from witnesses to learn why a Chinese government-affiliated company was awarded a contract to provide radio communications equipment for the RCMP. 

The company in question was Sinclair Technologies, a division of Norsat, itself owned by Hytera, a radio-systems manufacturer partially owned by the Chinese government. Hytera currently faces 21 espionage charges in the United States related to the theft of technological secrets from Motorola.  

Witnesses present were representatives of the RCMP, and Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino.

The tone of the questions posed to the witnesses split along partisan lines, with Conservative MPs Rick Perkins and Brad Vis hammering Mendicino about why a subsidiary of a Chinese state-owned company charged with espionage in the U.S. was awarded a contract with Canada’s national police agency. 

When asked a series of related questions, Mendicino repeated several times that Canada’s national security was never threatened and that the public service and the RCMP follow strict guidelines on awarding contracts to foreign firms. 

Sinclair Technologies’ contract with the RCMP was suspended in December after news of the contract’s existence was broken. 

Vis asked Mendicino why the contract was suspended when the contract became widely known if there was no security risk in the first place. Mendicino responded by stating the RCMP followed the correct protocols and that it is important to remain vigilant and assess threats to critical infrastructure. 

While suspended, the Sinclair contract was not cancelled outright. 

When Perkins questioned a representative of the RCMP about the contract, the representative said Sinclair was selected by Public Service and Procurement Canada (PSPC), which could not be reached for comment in time for publication. Perkins then questioned why the RCMP does not have its own process for vetting its contracts. 

“Are you not aware of Chinese state national companies that have been charged with espionage in our closest ally?” Perkins asked the RCMP representative, who responded in the negative. 

Perkins also asked Mendicino if he was aware of China’s National Intelligence Law, part of which mandated that all Chinese companies must provide access to state intelligence services. Mendicino said he was aware of the law. 

Vis and the Conservative INDU members forwarded a motion requesting all papers related to the Sinclair contract be provided to the committee for review. 

The motion was adopted in a mostly partisan vote, with four of the five Liberal INDU members voting against it, and seven others from the Conservatives, the Bloc Quebecois, and the NDP, as well as Liberal MP Han Dong, voting in favour. 

“We are not satisfied with the responses from Minister Mendicino during the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology meeting Monday afternoon,” said Vis via email. “Neither the Minister nor the RCMP representatives were able to clearly explain why, if there was no breach or security threat with Sinclair Technologies being awarded the contract for radio equipment, did they cancel the contract.” 

In an interview with The Hub, Perkins says Mendicino doesn’t seem to understand how Sinclair’s equipment could provide access to information processed through it. 

“Where those communications blinks are, that gives intelligence to the Chinese state government as to what the RCMP communication structures are like in the country,” says Perkins.

Minister Mendicino’s office could not be reached for comment, nor could other Liberal members of the INDU committee, including Chair Joël Lightbound. 

“What we have here is eight years of a failed system where this government has continued to allow Chinese state-owned enterprises to come into this country and own critical assets,” says Perkins. “Canadian taxpayers are paying to help subsidize the Chinese government to develop intellectual property in artificial intelligence for the Chinese military and it’s a consistent pattern.” 

On Thursday, three days after the INDU committee meeting about Sinclair’s contract, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne vowed that university research with Chinese military scientists would be restricted going forward. 

When asked if he believes the Sinclair affair will lead to tighter scrutiny around contracts awarded to foreign firms, Perkins said he does not expect it. 

“Past behaviour dictates future behaviour, so the answer (to) that is absolutely not.”