POLITICS

Compassionate Care Benefits Get Boost In 2015 Federal Budget

04/21/2015 04:12 EDT | Updated 06/21/2015 05:59 EDT
OTTAWA - Those who have to take time away from work to care for a dying loved one will get more help from the federal government.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver's new budget sets aside $37 million more each year for compassionate care benefits under employment insurance.

That will allow people to take up to six months off work, instead of the current six weeks.

The change will come into effect next Jan. 1.

"For more and more Canadians, caring for family not only means making sure the kids get the best start possible in life," Oliver said in his budget speech to the Commons. "It means being there for parents and other elderly relatives through their final days.

"When someone you love is gravely ill, you should feel free to focus on what matters most."

It's one of a series of social initiatives outlined in the fiscal plan, and comes ahead of a federal election scheduled for October — and four years after a parliamentary committee studied the issue and recommended substantial change.

An additional $200 million over five years will be earmarked to improve the First Nations education system.

Unlike a lot of the initiatives in Oliver's budget, that money will be available this year.

The funds will go into two programs under the umbrella of the "Strong Schools, Successful Students" initiative.

The funding is in addition to the $1.4 billion the government set aside a year ago for First Nations education. That money is sitting dormant on the government's books for now because attempts to reform the aboriginal school system through legislation collapsed.

The budget also sets aside $116 million over four years to eliminate the clawback facing students who work part-time to make ends meet.

Starting next year, the Canada Student Loan Program will no longer cut support to working students for every dollar they earn over $100 a week.

The federal government also says it's planning to expand eligibility for Canada student grants after 2016 and to reduce the amount of money parents are expected to contribute to their child's post-secondary education.

The budget set aside $150 million more over four years for social housing.

Oliver also announced the mandate of the Mental Health Commission of Canada will be renewed in 2017. The non-profit agency, created in 2007, has developed a national mental health strategy and produced initiatives to reduce stigma attached to mental disorders.

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