By Susan Delacourt, Toronto Star, October 5, 2010
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has unveiled a new, $1-billion promise to help people caring for ailing relatives at home.
It’s the first major policy proposal from the Liberals that comes with a price tag and is bound to be a key part of any future election campaign. The Liberals say they’ll pay for the plan by freezing planned Conservative tax cuts for corporations, which will put an extra $6-billion in the federal budget.
The Liberals’ “Family Care” policy plan has two parts: one would give six months of employment-insurance benefits to caregivers, while the other would provide up to $1,350 a year to people who are providing home care to the elderly or ill.
At present, home-care providers in Canada can only obtain six weeks of EI benefits—and only then if they can prove that the person in their care is expected to die within 26 weeks.
Liberals say that if they’re elected, those benefits will be expanded to six months and the terminally-ill condition will be removed. They’re working with medical professionals to come up with precisely the wording for the qualifying requirements.
First, congratulations to the Liberals for coming up with a specific that demonstrates one of their priorities, so that Canadian voters can start to glimpse the kind of alternative government we can look forward to should they succeed in forming a government after the next election.
Second, by not lowering taxes on corporations and paying for this proposal with those savings, the Liberal plan, while still a little sketchy, puts the government "squarely on the side of the middle class Canadians" as Ignatieff proudly declared in his brief television interview aired earlier this afternoon.
Third, listening to the kinds of conditions in which real people are living is one of the principal objects of any proposal the Liberals might offer. Listening to real people expressing real needs, is something Canadians have lost with the current crowd in government in Ottawa. And the care for the "grey-set" and those ill and coming to the end of their lives is certainly among the new developments of the last couple of decades
Minister of Human Resources, Diane Finley's comments that this proposal would cost Canadians jobs because it is so costly, is just another scare tactic, directed to exacerbate the fears of those fixated by budget figures, who have lost sight of real people and their needs. This government is full of those types.
While Finance Minister Flaherty may be right that boom economic times are over for Canada for the foreseeable future, that does not mean that the tax burden cannot be shared more equitably among Canadians. And certainly this is one voice willing and eager to support those Canadians who offer the members of their families their love and support when the need is significant, and the society that is already struggling to meet the costs of health care, can ill afford NOT to support such kindness and care through a plan such as the one proposed by the Liberals.
We need some more details to fill in the gaps in our sketchy knowledge of the proposal; however, this is a good first step toward gaining the confidence of Canadians in the somewhat reinvigorated Liberal party under Mr. Ignatieff and the Conservatives must hate to see and hear this news, given the blind eye, and heart that they have turned to effective social policy since taking office.