Liberals, CAQ stake out turf on families

Marc Lalonde
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Working parents need more support: Hawa

Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) leader Francois Legault, here campaigning in his hometown of Ste. Anne de Bellevue Wednesday, promised to give working parents five paid days off to look after a sick child, much as provincial civil servants do, if elected

The Coalition Avenir Quebecois (CAQ) and the Liberals both unveiled new concrete family-friendly policies designed to help support overburdened working parents during last week’s campaigning in advance of the Sept. 4 vote.

One day after Liberal leader Jean Charest announced he would commit $100 per elementary-school-aged child in public schools to offset the rising costs of school supplies, Coalition Avenir Quebecois (CAQ) leader Francois Legault said his party would extend five paid days off to all parents of young children in order to look after them in the event of an illness or injury.

Legault, who took few questions in his visit to his hometown of Ste. Anne de Bellevue Wednesday morning, told The Chronicle the policy would bring taxpayers’ rights into line with those of civil servants, already entitled to five paid days off to look after a sick child.

“I think working families need to be supported. Civil servants already get the time off inQuebec, and by law, workers are entitled to 10 unpaid days off,” he said. The five paid days would be subtracted from the 10 unpaid days off, the CAQ leader confirmed.

The CAQ’s Jacques Cartier candidate, Paola Hawa, a sitting Ste. Anne de Bellevue city councillor – and a working parent herself – said she has seen how a sick child can play havoc with a regular work schedule.

“We can see families being ripped apart by parents not being able to be there for their kids, which runs counter to the notion of healthy families,” she said. “Currently, if a child is sick, the parent has to make quick arrangements or stay home from work, and that’s not optimal,” Hawa said.

Parents also got a break at the federal level Wednesday, when the authorities introduced changes to employment insurance that will allow parents up to 35 weeks of paid benefits while looking after a sick child. Currently, parents are only entitled to six weeks of such benefits.

Liberal Jacques Cartier incumbent Geoff Kelley said Charest’s proposal – which is reported would cost the province about $45 million annually is a good start for helping parents parents struggling to make ends meet.

“I’m a little distant from it now, but I remember the days when we had four and maybe even five children in elementary school at once, it would get a little expensive to fill those long lists that get sent home from schools, just to underline the importance of education and getting kids a good start I school,” he said. On the same day, Charest doubled the budget of a provincial homework-aid program, pumping the fund up to $40 million – a move that will help restore some work-life balance for parents and students.

“The more homework that can get done before the child arrives home from school, the better. Increasingly, we see modern couples that both work and have to juggle getting homework done,” Kelley added.

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