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Executive Council
July 22, 2011

Premier Leads on Supports for Families

Challenges facing families throughout Canada were a focus of day one of meetings of the Council of the Federation in Vancouver yesterday. The Honourable Kathy Dunderdale, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, led discussions with premiers on maternal and parental employment insurance benefits and early childhood development.

"Supporting families in tangible ways is key to fostering a healthy society and a healthy economy," said Premier Dunderdale. "Supporting young families in particular is so important - the challenges associated with parental leave after the birth of a child and access to quality childcare can be daunting. These are national issues which we must grapple with."

Premier Dunderdale noted that the Employment Insurance system is one area where changes can be made to support families. Currently, a parent accessing maternal or parental EI benefits must have worked a minimum of 600 hours to qualify, yet those accessing regular benefits qualify with as few as 420 hours.

"Changing this inequity in the EI system would be a great addition to our country's support of families," said Premier Dunderdale. "Even then, there are still issues around the adequacy of benefit amounts and the challenges faced by seasonal workers who might never qualify for parental benefits. Women in particular suffer negative consequences when they leave the workforce for maternity reasons, not just in terms of income levels but in retaining seniority and opportunities for advancement."

A discussion on access to quality early learning and childcare was also led by Premier Dunderdale, with provinces and territories highlighting their different initiatives in this area.

"Understanding what works well in different areas of the country and the different approaches to addressing the challenges families face in accessing quality learning and childcare for their children is beneficial for all jurisdictions," said Premier Dunderdale. "Our government has provided increased investments in areas including subsidies for families, grants to early childhood educators, inclusion supports for children with disabilities and in our most recent budget, funding for a pilot program focusing on creating regulated family childcare spaces, which could benefit families in rural areas in particular where finding centre-based childcare is a challenge."

Premier Dunderdale added that measures which make it easier for parents to access the workforce and secure quality childcare support economic growth and meeting future labour force needs.

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Media contacts:

Glenda Power
Director of Communications
Office of the Premier
Milly Brown
Press Secretary
Office of the Premier
709-729-4304, 631-8477

2011 07 22                                                                              10:40 a.m.

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