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New five week, use-it-or-lose-it paternity leave benefit kicks in

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  • OTTAWA — The federal government says more families than expected are taking advantage of the new ability to extend a year’s worth of parental leave benefits over 18 months.

    Since the extension was made available in December 2017, more than 32,000 parents have availed themselves of the option — well above the anticipated 20,000 claims federal officials expected to get each year.

    On Sunday, a new use-it-or-lose-it leave for non-birthing parents — most often targeting fathers — will come into effect for parents of children born on or after March 17. The leave will also be available to parents of children placed for adoption beginning Sunday.

    Parents will get five additional weeks if they opt for the traditional 12-month parental leave, or eight weeks under the new 18-month option, so long as the couple agrees to split the time off to care for a new child.

    That option will only be available to parents who qualify for employment insurance benefits, which some experts fear could act as a barrier for parents who don’t or can’t work enough to meet the minimum requirements for hours worked.

    Over the next 12 months, federal officials expect 97,000 families to take advantage of the measures, which are designed to encourage non-birthing parents to take more time to care for a newborn and allow mothers to get return to the workforce sooner.

    The vast majority of parental leave claims come from women, who comprise about 85 per cent of the total.

    Quebec has had its own program since 2006, and take-up has steadily increased over time. In 2017, about 81 per cent of spouses or partners in Quebec took time off to care for a new child, compared to 12 per cent in the rest of the country.

    Quebec’s parental leave system provides up to five weeks of paid leave to new fathers, covering up to 70 per cent of their income.

    The federal benefit would cover 55 per cent of earnings for those taking 12 months of parental leave, or 33 per cent for those opting for an 18-month leave.

    Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


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    Scheer accuses Trudeau of ‘stacking the deck’ to get re-elected

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  • OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says the Liberals’ decision to name an anti-Conservative union to a panel that will decide which media outlets receive government funding is the latest example of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “stacking the deck” in his favour to get re-elected in October.

    Scheer told The Canadian Press today he believes the decision to include Unifor on the panel — which will determine eligibility for a $600-million bailout package —is unacceptable and will undermine the credibility of the panel’s work.

    Unifor has campaigned against the Conservative party and the union has recently published tweets calling itself Scheer’s “worst nightmare.”

    Scheer says this is the latest in a string of moves by Trudeau to give himself an upper hand ahead of the fall federal election.

    He also points to changes made to pre-election spending for political parties that impose restrictions that he says mainly affect the Conservative party, while no limits have been placed on government spending or travel in advance of the writ period.

    Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has defended Unifor’s place on the panel, saying the union represents over 12,000 journalists and media workers and has been included among other journalism groups to ensure broad representation from the industry.

    The Canadian Press

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    Police say it’s “impressive” no arrests were made after Raptors celebrations

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  • Toronto police say it’s “impressive” that they didn’t have to arrest anyone after the Raptors’ historic win on Saturday night sent thousands of celebratory fans careening onto the streets.

    The roar of fans cheering and chanting “We the North” and “Let’s go Raptors” flooded the downtown core after Canada’s sole NBA team earned a spot in the final for the first time in franchise history.

    On social media, videos emerged of fans running into intersections and dancing on top of streetcars and buses, but on Sunday, police spokeswoman Katrina Arrogante confirmed that not a single arrest was made.

    “It’s impressive. It certainly is,” said Arrogante. “We’re amazed — police were there to keep the peace and that’s exactly what happened.”

    The festivities ramped up shortly after 11 p.m. when the Raptors defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 100-94, becoming the Eastern Conference champions and advancing to the NBA Finals.

    Earlier in the day, fans lined up for hours to pack Jurassic Park, but a thunderstorm prompted Toronto police to post on Twitter that they wouldn’t open the fan zone on schedule because of safety concerns. The ban was lifted an hour later and Jurassic Park quickly overflowed with Raptors supporters who braved the rain to watch the game outside Scotiabank Arena.

    There was a heavy police presence as some fans got rowdy, but officers say everyone managed to stay out of trouble as the celebrations continued.

    Arrogante said officers were called to various spots around the city to assist with crowd control and directing traffic, but no one was arrested. She said she saw videos of fans dancing on streetcars but said there were no reported injuries, and in terms of arrests: “nothing came out of that,” she said.

    “It turned out better than it could have,” said Arrogante.

    She said police will be out again Thursday night when the Raptors play the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors in Game 1 and she hopes fans will continue to have fun safely.

    Arrogante said fans planning on drinking should get a designated driver or take public transit.

    “We’re reminding anyone that is going to be celebrating or taking part in any events forthcoming of the playoffs, is to be respectful.”

    Alanna Rizza, The Canadian Press

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