You might remember this moment, from Breakfast Television Montreal two years ago: Genevieve Skelton, one of the segment producers on the show, was invited on air, presumably to kick off a new behind-the-scenes series, only to be shocked with a live on-air marriage proposal. (She said yes.)
Skelton got married, and is now Genevieve Yarn. Ten months after this proposal, little Eli was born. She explained that her plan was to be with the father in Saskatoon for the birth, and then come back to Montreal and continue working after her maternity leave. But things changed, and she decided to stay out west. She now lives in Calgary.
Why am I telling you about this? Because she’s getting screwed by two governments.
Recently, the Quebec government determined that, because she left the province two days before the deadline for eligibility, she is not entitled to maternity leave benefits from the provincial government, which paid her $41,000 and is now clawing it all back. Unfortunate, but those are the rules. But when she tried to get benefits from the Canadian government, which handles such benefits for everyone outside Quebec, she was denied.
The reason? Because she got benefits from Quebec. The benefits the government has retroactively denied.
She posted a plea to Facebook, and began a campaign to garner attention to her cause. The Toronto Star wrote up the case. And despite various angry tweets directed at Justin Trudeau, there hasn’t been a followup yet.
I hope this situation gets sorted out, and she gets her Canadian benefits, which are less than what she got from Quebec, but are much better than nothing.
But what really bugs me about this case is how demonstrative it is of the problems that arise when the Quebec government decides it wants to duplicate a federal government service for no reason beyond its own ego.
Whether it’s tax collection or blood collection or maternity benefits, Quebec decides it needs its own separate bureaucracy, which comes not only at a higher administrative cost (paid for by taxpayers) but also increased complexity making it harder for everyone involved.
The nature of Quebec politics means we’re not going to reverse this situation any time soon, unfortunately. Nor are other provinces likely to give up their jurisdiction on things that would just make much more sense being handled on a national level (like securities regulation). But if we’re going to have both a provincial and a federal office doing the same job, can we at least get them to talk to each other? Is that too much to ask?
Because right now it doesn’t look like they’re doing that, and mothers like Genevieve are being unduly punished because of it.
UPDATE (April 16, 2018): Yarn, who hadn’t seen this post until now, says the federal government finally came through and paid her maternity benefits. They aren’t as much as Quebec’s, which she’s paying back in instalments, but at least it’s something.