Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Progress delayed

It was roughly two years ago - in the 2017 budget - when the federal government announced changes to the parental leave available through Employment Insurance. Instead of being limited to 12 months of benefits, parents could elect to receive the same total benefit amount over a period of 18 months.

Leaving aside the modest nature of that change in federal policy, though, it's worth taking a close look at the Saskatchewan Party's response - especially compared to that of other provincial governments.

The changes first announced in early 2017 took effect at the federal level in December of that year. And some provinces acted quickly to make sure that their constituents had access to leave in order to make use of the new benefit structure.

Under Scott Moe, the Saskatchewan Party has chosen to do just the opposite.

Moe waited until multiple provinces had actually enacted changes to their leave periods before so much as suggesting that he'd follow the federal benefit structure as a matter of course. The Saskatchewan Party then waited until last November to introduce a bill (Bill 153) - and the legislation needed to ensure the availability of an extended parental leave period remains stuck (PDF) at second reading by choice.

But if the Moe government is holding off as long as possible in actually providing any increased leave period, it's finding other uses for the change in federal policy.

Most notably, the Saskatchewan Party is engaged in data mining off a petition seeking declarations of support for the very policy it's delaying (while also setting up a default option for anybody who signs to receive Sask Party spam in perpetuity). And if new parents have needlessly been deprived of otherwise-accessible benefit options for over a year because Moe prefers to drag his heels for political gain...well, that doesn't seem to be of any concern for him.

To sum up, the path of Saskatchewan's parental leave policy highlights the reality that the Saskatchewan Party stands out as gratuitously delaying progress compared to its provincial counterparts, even as it falsely pretends to champion the policy it's actually obstructing. And it's worth keeping that gap between spin and reality in mind as Moe unveils today's budget.

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