My Mandate Letter for the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

The first step a newly elected Prime Minister takes on the road to governing is choosing the members of cabinet and giving them their marching orders. Prime Minister Trudeau set to this task with zeal when he was first elected in the autumn of 2015, and surprised many by making the mandate letters public. The CD Howe Institute asked a number of experts to draft their versions, and this post offers a slightly longer version of the mandate letter I wrote for the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development published by the Institute.

Click on image to link to the 2015 Mandate Letter

All Canadians have a right to live the life they value with dignity.

As Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, your actions should be governed by this principle, and directed to three concerns:

  1. promoting economic well-being and ensuring that those facing challenging circumstances are able to fully participate in our society with dignity;
  2. fostering equal opportunities and inclusion for all, regardless of family background, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation;
  3. enhancing economic and social resilience, whether Canadians live in families or on their own.

With these in mind, I will expect you to work with your colleagues through established legislative, regulatory, and Cabinet processes to deliver on your top priorities.

You will be guided by the Poverty Reduction Act, which mandates a 50% reduction in the poverty rate by 2030 from the rate prevailing in 2015.

You will set an intermediate target of lowering the poverty rate by at least 20% by the end of our mandate from the level prevailing in 2018.

In this context:

Work with the National Advisory Council on Poverty to table annual reports to the legislature that:

Work closely with your municipal and provincial counterparts to develop Canada’s Homelessness Strategy using comprehensive and timely indicators.

  • your goal is to bring full freedom and dignity to Canada’s homeless, reducing the rate of homelessness by half over the course our mandate.

Work with the Minister of Finance to develop a Basic Income, expanding and revising our existing tax and social policy architecture in a way that fosters inclusion and employment.

Your role will be to:

  • enhance the Canada Child Benefit, ensuring that low income families receive sufficient resources to meet our intermediate poverty reduction targets while still preventing poverty among middle income families;
  • introduce a Guaranteed Paid Family Leave that is integrated with the Parental Leave provisions of Employment Insurance so that all working parents can spend the first year with their new child whether or not they qualify for Employment Insurance; and
  • promote in-work income support by enhancing the Canada Workers Benefit and integrating it with the Canada Child Benefit and the Working While on Claim provisions of Employment Insurance so as to enhance the incomes of the working poor, particularly those living on their own.

Enhance the insurance role of Regular Employment Insurance Benefits in a way recognizing that the changing nature of work, the increasing use of robotics, and other job market risks will impact more and more service sector jobs, including those that have been relatively well-paid.

You will:

  • Significantly increase both the benefit rate and the maximum insurable earnings in order to offer more comprehensive insurance that is at the same time financially sound;
  • Institute “Career Insurance Benefits” for workers permanently laid-off from jobs they have held for at least five years. These benefits should offer wage-insurance for those experiencing lower incomes in their new jobs, and they should be seamlessly integrated with the work-while-on-claim provisions, continuing for at least two years after the worker has stopped collecting Regular Benefits;
  • Enhance access to benefits
    • expand the coverage of eligible employment to reflect the contingent nature of work, significantly raising the fraction of the employed who are covered;
    • lower the minimum hours of work required to qualify
    • make entrance requirements more similar across regions by basing them on only three levels of the regional unemployment rate: less than six percent, six to eight percent, greater than eight percent
Anywhere from 420 to 700 hours of insured employment are currently needed to qualify for Employment Insurance Benefits

Enhance the role of the Employment Insurance program as an automatic stabilizer

  • speed-up reductions in the entrance requirement when unemployment rises by using the change in the provincial unemployment over its level three months earlier; and
  • introduce an extra tier to the maximum duration of benefits based upon the change in the provincial unemployment

Enhance the financial capital of the next generation of Canadians by reforming the Canada Learning Bond:

  • enhance the program’s scope and flexibility by permitting use of the bond not just for education but also the purchase of a first home or retirement;
  • make enrollment into the program automatic; and
  • increase the maximum benefit.

Review the delivery of all benefits and services provided by your department with the objective of continual improvement in service standards, and promoting access to the benefits

  • increase benefit take-up rates by streamlining the application process, and where possible making benefit receipt automatic.

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