Stephen Harper made families the centrepiece of election promises made during a Saskatoon stop on the campaign trail Wednesday.
“There is no experience like being a parent, it changes everything … of course it changes how you work,” Harper said in front of a small group of Saskatoon supporters Wednesday.
“Who stays home with the new baby? For how long, and how do parents mange that financially? These are all serious decisions,” he said.
Harper announced a four-part package meant to give new parents more job security and more options to manage their income.
With 12 days left before the election, Harper said the federal government would amend the federal labour code to provide job protection to new parents in federally-regulated sectors until their babies reach the age of 18 months.
Under the current federal labour code biological mothers are eligible for up to 17 weeks of maternity leave while natural and adoptive parents can get up to 37 weeks of parental leave. Harper’s promise translates into an extra six months of unpaid paternal leave.
The Conservatives would also give parents the option of receiving employment insurance parental benefits at a full rate for up to 35 weeks, or the option of extending those payments at a lesser rate for up to 61 weeks.
Sticking with employment insurance (E.I.) income, Harper said a Conservative government would launch a new two-year pilot project to allow parents to earn self-employment income without hindering their E.I. benefits. They would be able to earn a combined total of $50,800 from both the E.I. benefits and self-employment income in 2016.
Women on E.I. will also be able to earn regular employment income under the Working While on Claim pilot project.
“These commitments will provide new parents with additional flexibility and allow those who are interested in starting a new business to do so,” Harper said.
Canadians will head to the polls on Oct. 19.