Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a town hall meeting Thursday in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Shortly before the 2015 election, a group of Liberal policy advisers took a long look at how to create dedicated leave for new fathers — but once in office, opted instead for allowing all new parents extra time off without an increase in benefits.

Now, after that plan received a cool reception, the governing Liberals appear to be going back to their original idea.

For weeks, federal officials have been furiously consulting with experts on how to create dedicated leave for new dads, probing their various options, the potential costs and the timelines for implementation.

Multiple sources with knowledge of the discussions, speaking on condition of anonymity about matters not yet public, say ideas under consideration include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec, and setting aside a portion of the recently expanded parental leave for new fathers or non-birthing parents.

A spokesman for Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos would only say officials are looking at different options and will provide more details later this year.

READ MORE: Expanded parental leave to come into effect by end of 2017

The Liberals first floated the idea of dedicated paternity leave two years ago. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brought it up anew during a recent town hall meeting when he said his government was exploring the possibility of mandatory paternity leave.

Trudeau wasn’t entirely sure how the policy would work without having negative effects on single mothers and LGBT families, nor did he elaborate on the options under consideration.

Quebec is the only province that has dedicated leave for fathers.

Elsewhere in Canada, fathers or non-birthing parents are able to split parental leave with a new mother. Under changes that took effect in early December, parents can split 35 or 61 weeks of employment insurance leave.

Put another way, new parents can use up to 18 months of leave, but only get 12 months of employment insurance benefits under the new policy.

During the government’s consultations, experts, labour and business groups warned the Liberal plan for more time off without a corresponding increase in benefits would have negative effects on Canadian families, particularly women who take the extended time away from the labour market.

One specific recommendation that came up during the meetings was a use-it-or-lose-it paternity leave option in any parental leave changes, as well as expanding eligibility to anyone who wasn’t considered a primary caregiver, such as a grandparent.

Kate Bezanson, an expert on parental leave policies, said opting for extra leave without additional benefits was a “huge missed opportunity” to at least target a portion of the extra leave to another caregiver.

“The government is quite receptive to doing some revision to that,” said Bezanson, chair of the department of sociology at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont.

“There is a good model in Quebec … that we can emulate quite easily in terms of eligibility criteria, in terms of a targeted use-it-or-lose-it leave, and it has really significant uptake.”

Quebec’s parental leave system provides up to five weeks of paid leave to new fathers that covers up to 70 per cent of their income.

Research into the Quebec benefit has shown take-up has steadily increased since 2006, when paternity benefits became part of the provincial leave plan. There is one caveat: Quebec was already tops in the country when it came to new fathers taking time.

A joint Canada-U.S. business council formed by Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump this week highlighted the need to boost men’s involvement in caring for children. The council’s report called on both governments to review maternity leave policies and tax incentives among other measures ”to level the playing field between caregivers — for example, paternity leave policies.”

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Gas tank of Langley man’s pickup drilled to steal fuel

Record-high gas prices may be to blame for the theft that has left him without a truck

Chilliwack RCMP seek shoplifting suspect caught on video

Man allegedly connected to automobile theft in Abbotsford, shoplifting in Langley

Reconciliation walk builds relationships between settlers and Indigenous peoples

Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation begins May 25 in Fort Langley

RCMP seeks dash cam footage in Cloverdale hit and run

RCMP believe same Acura TL involved in two accidents within minutes of each other

South Surrey parents plan appeal of air-contaminants permit

Metro Vancouver gives 15-year OK to galvanizing-plant emissions

VIDEO: B.C. man recognized for spinning basketball on toothbrush

Abbotsford man holds world record for longest duration of time of 60.5 seconds

Former Social Credit MLA dies at 88

Lyall Hanson was mayor of Vernon in 1981 and moved to provincial politics from 1986-96

The simple beauty of a barn

Architect’s labour of love wins award from Architecture Institute of BC

B.C. set to introduce pot laws, but years of fine tuning likely: minister

Legislation regulating recreational marijuana is expected to be introduced Thursday

Canadian driver uses lawn chair as driver’s seat, gets caught

Ontario police detachment caught the male driver during a traffic stop

B.C. moves to restrict pill presses in opioid battle

Minister Mike Farnworth says federal law doesn’t go far enough

UPDATE: 83-year-old convicted murderer back in custody

RCMP have captured Ralph Whitfield Morris who escaped from Mission Institution

VIDEO: Vets, volunteers set up vaccination station for sick bunnies

Volunteers, vets try to stop spread of lethal virus

If you see a dog in a hot car, don’t break in: SPCA

People are being discouraged from smashing windows to free animals. The SPCA has tips on what else you can do.

Most Read