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Feds quietly exploring paternity leave options

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OTTAWA—Shortly before the 2015 election, a group of Liberal policy advisers took a long look at how to create dedicated leave for new fathers—but once in office, opted instead for allowing all new parents extra time off without an increase in benefits.

Now, after that plan received a cool reception, the governing Liberals appear to be going back to their original idea.

For weeks, federal officials have been consulting furiously with experts on how to create dedicated leave for new dads, probing their various options, the potential costs, and the timelines for implementation.

Multiple sources with knowledge of the discussions, speaking on condition of anonymity about matters not yet public, say ideas under consideration include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec, and setting aside a portion of the recently-expanded parental leave for new fathers or non-birthing parents.

A spokesman for Social Development minister Jean-Yves Duclos only would say officials are looking at different options and would provide more details later this year.

The Liberals first floated the idea of dedicated paternity leave two years ago.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brought it up anew during a recent town hall meeting when he said his government was exploring the possibility of mandatory paternity leave.

Trudeau wasn't entirely sure how the policy would work without having negative effects on single mothers and LGBT families, nor did he elaborate on the options under consideration.

Quebec is the only province that has dedicated leave for fathers.

Elsewhere in Canada, fathers or non-birthing parents are able to split parental leave with a new mother.

Under changes that took effect in early December, parents can split 35 or 61 weeks of employment insurance leave.

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