Sunday, November 27, 2005


Democratic reform coming soon to a curling rink near you

Belinda Stronach, the Minister Responsible for Democratic Reform, hopes to set fixed election dates after consulting Canadians in a series of conferences next year —.

Stronach is personally in favour of fixed dates. She said the government has launched a process that could lead to sweeping changes in federal politics and the wheels are turning towards the idea regardless of whether the government falls on Monday. Stronach believes the citizens' meetings will start by the end of January 2006.

A federal website has issued the call for tenders seeking potential organizers for 27 meetings of ordinary citizens across the country. The process loosely resembles recent citizens' assemblies in B.C. and is scheduled to result in a draft report by Oct. 13, 2006.

The other announcement that Stronach made is actually more emblematic of the lack of planning in government these days. For more than a year, Ottawa has offered up to six weeks' of paid leave under Employment Insurance for Canadians who care for gravely ill family members. Ms. Stronach said response has been lower than expected and the program will be expanded beyond immediate family members.

Barely $7.5-million was approved in compassionate-care benefits last year for about 5,400 claimants, even though the government budgeted $190-million and expected 270,000 Canadians to use the program. Stronach believes that loosening eligibility requirements would help the program meet its targets.

“We are making improvements to compassionate care that will allow an individual to designate who should look after them in their last moments,” Ms. Stronach said. “To me it makes good common sense.”

This program could use more than just a loosening of requirements. When a program has a 4% take-up rate I think there are some serious communication problems (or lack there of). Or, this program isn't for everyone and Canadians have found other ways to deal with unforeseen illness for family members.

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