Not just for the Finnish: Montreal mayor promises 'baby welcome boxes' if re-elected
MONTREAL -- It's not just for Scandinavians anymore, or at least it shouldn't be, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said Thursday.
If re-elected in a few weeks, Plante said, her administration promises to bring "baby boxes" to Montreal and its new parents.
The idea, which originated in Finland, is to make sure that every new family, regardless of income, is provided with a newborn's necessities -- packed in a single, colourful, welcoming box.
In Finland, even the box itself was famously useful, as it was designed to double as a crib for the first few weeks.
"The birth of a baby is synonymous with joy, but is experienced differently from family to family," said Projet Montreal, Plante's party, in a press release Thursday morning.
The boxes would help smooth over hardships for parents and would be a "symbol of Montreal pride," the party wrote.
The Montreal boxes wouldn't be an exact copy of the Finnish ones, though -- they would be tailored to Montreal life.
They would have baby items "in the colours of Montreal," including clothes, a blanket, a bib and tiny hat.
They would also have vouchers allowing parents to do the city's baby-friendly activities, including metro tickets and admission to museums. A support guide to resources for parents would also be tucked in.
Most importantly, they'd contain at-home essentials such as a thermometre, cloth diapers, and even a baby book to encourage reading.
Each box has a total value of about $100 worth of goods, the release said.
"This box will allow thousands of children and families to benefit from a slightly easier start in life, and a slightly less expensive one, thus contributing to equality of opportunity," the party said.
Finland starting providing the boxes in 1938, but the concept has spread around the world since then, Projet Montreal wrote.
Scotland has had a similar program for four years, and France intends to start one this February.
Other Canadian provinces have also started similar boxes in recent years, including Alberta and Manitoba.
If re-elected, Plante would start providing the boxes at the start of her second term, she said. They would cost an annual $2 million and would cover about 20,000 newborns each year.
Well-off families also have the option of redirecting the funding, the party said.
"Families who want to give up their box will be able to do so. An equivalent cash donation will be made to an organization that works with Montreal families," said the release.
Plante, who has two children, was quoted as saying that her party is family-focused in other ways, but "we want to go even further by celebrating the birth of Montreal's babies," and that the boxes will be "filled with beautiful items, essentials and items that will allow parents to spoil themselves."
She announced the initiative alongside the candidate for borough mayor of Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension, a borough with a high concentration of low-income families.
“Parents will find what they are looking for here and can continue to enjoy Montreal life with their children," said the candidate, Laurence Lavigne Lalonde.
"Montreal is a perfect city for families and we will make sure that it stays that way."