What Budget 2017 offers families

Canadian parents will soon be able to choose between the usual one-year parental leave or an extended 18-month leave—at a lower rate of salary top-up—when they welcome a new child. The new parental benefits are among a host of measures in the 2017 budget that the government touts as helping families, and particularly women, by giving them more flexibility in juggling work and their families. By the end of this year, when parents have a new baby or adopt a child, they will be able to choose between 12 months of Employment Insurance (EI) benefits covering 55 per cent of their salary, or 18 months at 33 per cent of their salary. This change will cost $152 million over five years, beginning this fiscal year, and $27.5 million a year after that, according to the budget tabled Wednesday by Finance Minister Bill Morneau. In addition, mothers can begin claiming maternity benefits—15 weeks of leave available only to moms—12 weeks before their due date, as opposed to the current policy, which is limited to eight weeks before a baby’s expected arrival. That tweak will cost $43.1 million over five years and $9.2 million a year after that. According to the government, both moves are intended to give families more flexibility. However, the eligibility criteria remain unchanged for those benefits administered through the EI program: parents must have at least 600 hours of insurable employment in the previous year, and the ceiling on insurable earnings is currently $51,300 (that figure rises slightly from year to year). A recent report from the Institute for Research on Public Policy found that women, younger workers and those in precarious or non-traditional jobs are less likely to qualify. As of 2014, 63 per cent of new mothers outside Quebec (which has its own parental benefits system) received benefits; 10 per cent worked, but not enough to receive benefits—though that figure has fallen over the last decade; 11 per cent worked but did not have insured earnings; and 16 per cent had not worked in two or more years. Another budget item touted to help families—and particularly women—is a new caregiving benefit. Currently, there is a compassionate care benefit available to people caring for a family member near the end of life, but the new benefit would offer 15 weeks of leave—at 55 per cent salary—when caring for a loved one with any serious illness or injury. This measure will cost $691.3 million over five years and $168.1 million a year after that, the government says. An existing benefit that offers parents or guardians of critically ill children up to 35 weeks of coverage will also be tweaked to allow them to share that leave with other family members. However, the biggest-ticket budget item aimed at Canadian families with kids is so far entirely devoid of details. The budget includes $7 billion over 10 years for more early learning programs and child care spaces. That funding kicks in next fiscal year, and is in addition to $500 million for 2017-18 that was announced in the 2016 budget. This provides the long-range funding advocates have asked for, but it remains to be seen what exactly it will pay for, or how it will change the reality on the ground. “For too many families, the lack of affordable, high-quality child care means difficult choices—some parents may have to sacrifice retirement savings to pay for child care, while others may leave their careers because child care is unavailable or unaffordable,” the budget document notes. To that end, the federal government is consulting with the provinces and territories and Indigenous communities—each of whom will ultimately determine how to use their allotted portion of the funding—with an eye to creating a multilateral “framework” of priorities and approaches to child care. There is no timeline yet for that. The budget document floats the idea that the new funding “could” provide up to 40,000 new subsidized child care spaces for families with limited income, or “make it more affordable for parents to return to work,” but offers no specifics. Many of these family-friendly gestures are explicitly framed as helping to keep more women in the labour force and giving them more options for balancing the various spinning plates in their lives. The final chapter of the 278-page document is entitled Equal opportunity: Budget 2017’s gender statement. The government says that this and all future budgets will be subject to “gender-based analysis,” which means examining how public policy affects men and women differently and shaping government programs accordingly. Among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, Canada does relatively well with women in the workforce, the budget notes—but it still lags behind the top performers. “Women with children are often excluded from full participation in the labour market due to challenges in balancing work and family life, or they work part-time, which often means lower wages and fewer benefits, including lack of a pension, paid vacation and sick leave, as well as less job stability,” the document states. “Budget 2016 and Budget 2017 include many measures aimed at reducing the gender wage gap, encouraging greater workforce participation among women, and helping to combat poverty and violence.”

8 things to get rid of at home (you’ll never know they’re gone)

1. Old receipts, files, and newspapers Try scanning old papers instead of piling them up around your house. 2. Fridge pin-ups Last week’s grocery list, a printed recipe you tried last month, and an interesting article you found last year can all be taken down now. If you haven’t given it second thought in over 6 months, it’s time to clean up that fridge décor. 3. Ancient electronics Remote controls, flip-phone chargers, cords, monitors, and more. You’ve since upgraded and might think you’re being organized by leaving them in a box in the basement. You’re really just inviting extra, unwanted clutter. Electronics don’t need to be dumped in the trash…they can be recycled! Take 20 minutes of research to find an organization that works for you. Here’s one to get you started. 4. Outdated office supplies Since moving over to laptop work, you’ve significantly cut down on traditional office supplies. That hasn’t changed the fact that pens, markers, highlighters and old (used) notebooks are still sprawled all over your house, collecting dust. In fact, you could probably find at least 25 dried up pens lying around the house right now if you tried. 5. Old mugs Past jobs, gifts, and flash sales have left you with an over abundance of coffee and tea mugs that are now being crammed into every drawer, shelf, and crevice of your kitchen. Which ones are your go-tos? Keep those. Donate the rest. 6. Bedding and beyond If your linens are still comprised of old duvets from sleepover camp, college dorms, twin bedding that no longer has a twin bed, or some version of all of these…you know the drill. 7. Plastic containers Plastic containers tends to build up in the kitchen like it’s nobody’s business. Rule of thumb: invest in a fresh supply every couple of years. As for the old ones? No need to be hanging out in a drawer for fun. 8. Expired Food Need we expand? Get rid of it! [bc_video video_id="5363161834001" account_id="2226196965001" player_id="default"]

Sex and happiness: A new study connects the dots

The premise that people who have more sex are happier seems obvious enough, but there’s more to it than you might think. Researchers from the University of Toronto and Université de Fribourg in Switzerland set out to uncover why more sex results in happiness that lasts longer than the initial immediate pleasure, in research published recently in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin journal. In a series of four studies, researchers asked American and Swiss couples, mostly heterosexual, to record how often they had sex, as well as the frequency of “affectionate touch” (hugging, cuddling, kissing and caressing), and then correlated this data with the couples’ rating of life satisfaction and positive feelings like joy, contentment and pride. They found that people who reported having sex not only experienced immediate affection at that moment but were also more likely to report affection 24 hours later. They also caught up with participants six months later and found that people who’d had more frequent sex during the study period continued to have greater relationship satisfaction. The researchers concluded that sex encourages affection, which contributes to sustained happiness. We talked to lead author, Anik Debrot, about the takeaways of the paper. Did anything surprise you about the results? I was surprised to find there was no difference between genders. Previous research has shown that men and women approach sexuality in different ways but we found that they are pretty similar — it comes down to how sex can create positive emotions and is associated with more affection.  In one of the smaller samples, men reported feeling more affection  than women. [The study found that affection frequency was more strongly associated with emotional well-being in men than women.] One possible reason is that men rely on sex for affection more. In other studies, some women reported [also feeling] affection when children touch them, and some women reported that they just need more space for themselves. But we weren’t able to replicate this, so I wouldn’t put too much weight on these differences. Could sex be a buffer for couples who find it hard to communicate otherwise? We’ve shown that sex promotes something very relational and affectionate. People feel more intimacy. They feel closer, more understood and more cared for by their partner from the affection during sex. It would be interesting to see if sex could buffer the fact that some people are not able to express affection in other ways. What can single people take away from this? Good question, I don’t have an easy answer to that. I would say that affection is always important, even if it’s not linked to any sexual act. There are many ways to show affection. From other studies we know that people receive affection from different relationships, such as friendships and parent-child relationships. Affection is important to feel good. I can only encourage to show affection as much as possible.

How to find the best jeans for your curves

Let’s face it: Jeans will never go out of style. And I’m not mad about it. Especially since the options are seemingly limitless right now, whether you opt for comfort (slouchy boyfriend jeans) or work-appropriate (sleek skinny or trouser cut jeans). As a plus-sized woman, though, an afternoon of searching for the perfect pair of jeans can turn into what feels like an endless quest. It took me over a decade to figure out what styles I feel most comfortable in. That’s why I’m here to save your next shopping trip with the best tips on how to find your new favourite pair. Related: Denim Dos and Don’ts: Culottes, ripped jeans and jean jackets The first step is to figure out which cuts and shapes work best for your body. I usually opt for high-waisted styles — I like my jeans to fit snugly around my tummy so that they’re more likely to stay up all day. I also find that high-waisted denim offers a solution to the dreaded lower-back gap (you know when you hike a pair of jeans up over your hips and close the zipper only to find that you can fit your entire hand between the fabric and the small of your back? So. Annoying.) I love having the option of tucking in my casual tee to make it a whole different look. You can try switching up your own denim looks by rolling up the hems of your jeans into a crop style, or by pairing them with a heels instead of flats. Related:  6 denim styles perfect for every figure If you’re bored with the same old look, try a pair of coloured flares or trendy overalls. The last time I found a pair of blue jeans I loved, I bought two more in different colours. Which brings me to my next tip: If you find a pair that fits in all the right places, it’s not a bad idea to stock up — you never know how long the style will be available. And please, please don’t get upset if you find your size fluctuates between washes and finishes, even within the same brand. Sizing can be a fickle concept, especially when trying new denim styles. Just remember: The number on the tag shouldn’t dictate how you feel about yourself. When heading to the fitting room, I usually grab a pair in my regular size as well as the next size up Related: 3 easy DIY denim hacks Ultimately, it comes down to comfort: You want to make sure your jeans fit properly so that you’ll actually get wear out of them. Take a stroll around and ask yourself: Do the jeans sit properly on your body, or are they falling down? Is the waist a bit too tight or perfectly snug? If you’re searching online, it’s best to order from a brand you’ve worn before. And be sure to read the reviews: Other shoppers will often comment about quality and material, as well as whether you should size up or down. My most valuable advice? When in doubt, don’t focus on the trends. Focus on what you feel good in. [rdm-gallery id='71' slug='plus-size-denim']

7 tips to overcome your fear of public speaking

[bc_video video_id="5359018526001" account_id="2226196965001" player_id="rkljM4WDEg"] The average person ranks the fear of public speaking higher than the fear of death. Standing up in front of a room of people can be paralyzing but every single person will be called on to do it professionally at some point in their lives. Entertainment reporter, Teri Hart shares her ways and tips to help you get better and feel better about the experience and overcoming Glossophobia!


  • Find your tribe to run things by Those friends or family members who are really going to listen to you and are going to tell you what works and what doesn’t work. Run it by them, not excerpts or snippets. Your tribe will want to listen to the entire presentation or speech.
  • Be personal Use anecdotes to make it yours. People want to know about a person, your person when you’re speaking. Find ways to make what you’re saying truly yours. Inject your own experiences into your presentation.
  • Use your nerves Nerves are your body’s way of reminding you that something matters, something is on the line. This is good. What you’re doing is important. Don't let your nerves freak you out a night or a day before your presentation. Always remind yourself that it is just your nerves playing tricks on you. You want it to be great, you want it to make an impact, that's why you are doubting yourself, because it matters. Just reminded myself that you are the expert and trust yourself.
  • Familiarize yourself with the environment Always know where you are presenting. Is it a boardroom? A hall? Do you have a podium? Will you be mic’d? Do you have to hold a mic? Ask these questions. And anytime you can check out the space in advance. Get a feel for it. Even if you’ve been in that room a million times, go in that room and know what it feels like to be sitting in a different space and presenting. That familiarity with the space will be invaluable.
  • Slow Down If you hate public speaking you probably speak too fast. When we don’t like something or if something feels uncomfortable we want to get through it as quickly as possible. As much as you know what you’re saying and you have rehearsed, the people you are presenting to are hearing it for the first time. Let them hear it. Let them absorb, and let them learn.
  • Breathe! So many times I see presentations and at the end somebody takes a big old sigh. This isn’t a sigh it’s over… this is inevitably a big sigh because they haven’t taken a real breath for their entire speech or presentation. Take a breath, it’s natural we all need to breathe.
I’ve broken these do’s down into an acronym (BRIEF) that is a good check list for every time that you are presenting or public speaking.


In everything that you are saying, we are often given words from communications or marketing or our bosses to say that don’t ring true, make these words your own and believe in what you are saying.


There’s no formula that is right here, but as a general rule your presentation should be firm 2 days before your event. Read it out loud as many times as you need to know what you are saying, not memorize but know what the words are and what the structure is. The night before is a good time for a couple of out loud reads and the day of, run through a few times.


This is the most difficult for many people and of course the most important. You are presenting for a reason. You know what you’re talking about because you believe it and you’ve rehearsed it. You are the expert. People need to hear what you have to say. Whether it is to do a better job or to learn something you are there for a very good and specific reason. Respect the place that you are in.


Be sure that you aren’t repeating yourself and don’t worry about time. Don’t try to fill a block in the agenda. Concise is always best.


Let yourself smile, everyone looks nice smiling. Enjoy being the expert. And remember that you’ve done the hard work to be here and having people listen to you, that should be FUN! Mark Twain quoted “There are two types of speakers, those who get nervous and those who are liars”. Making a speech or presenting an idea doesn’t come naturally to anyone. Like every other skill set in your life you practice and get better and find a groove and build on your experiences.