OTTAWA — Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly is leading the federal electoral campaign for the Liberals and seeking re-election for the party. Her biggest challenge, however, has yet to come: becoming a mother
Joly said in an interview with The Canadian Press she was starting her fifth attempt at the invitro fertilization process.
“Normally, it is the most euphoric part of the process,” Joly said in French. “Because everything is possible. And you think it’s going to work. So, every time it doesn’t work, which has been the case in the previous four attempts, it’s a period of mourning … It is so exhausting.”
Joly has spoken publicly over the past months about her desire to start a family. Only recently, however, did she open up about the highs and lows associated with fertility treatments, following the advice of her friend Julie Snyder, one of Quebec’s biggest TV hosts and producers, who also went through a similar experience.
And Joly doesn’t shy away from it, saying the fall will be hard if the fifth attempt doesn’t work.
“It’s like being at the top of a roller-coaster, at the top of the ‘Monstre’ in La Ronde, and all of a sudden, your wagon doesn’t have any brakes and you fall,” Joly said. “So, it becomes very difficult because the symptoms are demanding, emotions are on the edge.”
Invitro fertilization can be a costly and emotional process for many families in Canada. Only a handful of provinces offer some type of coverage for the treatment that can cost between $10,000 to $20,000 per cycle. Quebec, where Joly represents the federal riding of Ahuntsic-Cartierville, offers a refundable tax credit.
Though health care falls under provincial jurisdiction, there have been calls for the federal government to create a national fertility framework or use its powers under the Canada Health Act to require provinces to provide consistent coverage.
Female politicians still face relentless questions about balancing work and family. Joly said she's up for the challenge of co-chairing the national Liberal campaign while her body is experiencing extreme changes.
“There is a good adrenalin during the campaign, but my life goal, my goal as a woman is to be able to become a mother and a parent with my partner,” she said.
For a long time, she said she thought a balance between work and family was not possible for her.
Empowering examples, however, haven't been lacking in the House of Commons over the past few years. Former NDP MP Christine Moore opened the door to changes within the institution by notably fighting for short-term child care options on Parliament Hill.
Other members also gave birth during their mandates, such as Bloc Québécois MP Marilène Gill, NDP MPs Niki Ashton and Laurel Collins and International Development Minister Karina Gould, who became the first federal minister to give birth and take her maternity leave during her mandate.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh announced a few days before the federal election was triggered that his wife is pregnant with their first child.
Joly said she now hopes it will be her turn.
“For me, this is the last call for being a mom.' I’m 42 so it’s now or never,” Joly said.
“And I know what politics is now, I know what it means, to be a minister. I know what it is like to be a member of a government. I know it’s possible to do both. And I can’t go around the country, trying to recruit candidates while saying a balance between work and family is possible, if I, myself, am not doing it.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Aug. 21, 2021.
Catherine Lévesque, The Canadian Press