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September 15, 2008

Harper's Maternity and Parental Leave Benefits Proposal: Read the Fine Print

Babies

Stephen Harper's idea about making self-employed parents eligible for maternity and parental leave through the employment insurance program is an idea that certainly has merit. It's something self-employed parents have been wanting for years. I just wonder if the Harper plan will actually pan out, given that

  • Harper states details about premium amounts (the amount you pay in advance) and required post-claim payments (the amount you would be required to pay after receiving benefits) will be worked out when the program is implemented after review by the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board (in other words, this idea will have to get pass the bean-counters and the regulators in order to become anything more than an election promise);
  • The plan that Harper is proposing would allow parents to sign up for the plan six months in advance of giving birth (in other words when they are already three-months pregnant). I don't know of any other insurance plan, government operated or otherwise, that allows subscribers to sign up when they already know that they're going to be in immediate need of benefits. It kind of sounds too good to be true. And when something sounds too good to be true, I have a hard time believing that it's actually going to pan out in the end (a.k.a. after we've all headed to the polls).

Harper also needs to reassure Canadian parents that this will be equitable, across-the-board legislation (e.g., his proposed plan will apply to families who become parents through adoption).

You can't just drop a bombshell like this into an election campaign and say, "We'll work out the details later on." Not when your record of keeping election promises hasn't always been something to write home to Canadians about.

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