When Kathy MacNaughton got off the phone with Central Nova MP Sean Fraser, she looked heavenward.
“I did it,” she said.
The Westville woman knows her late common-law partner David Fraser would be proud of her.
The call from her MP had been to tell her the Liberal Party platform had been influenced by "David’s Cause," a fight she began when her husband died.
In part, because of her efforts, the Liberals have vowed in their election platform that EI sick benefits will be changed from 15 weeks to 26 weeks. While it may seem like a small matter for some, MacNaughton believes, or those who have a loved one fighting a serious illness, it will be life changing.
David Fraser was 50 when he died of esophageal cancer in August 2014. Eight months prior, he had been working in Rainbow Lake, Alta., when he was diagnosed with cancer. He was advised by his doctor to come home for benefits. When his EI sick benefits ran out, MacNaughton said he was advised he had to file for his Canada Pension because EI said he no longer qualified. Because of this, he couldn’t get the 30 weeks he had remaining in EI benefits he would otherwise be owed. In eight months, he went from a monthly income of around $6,000, down to $1,600 a month in EI sick benefits and then to $852 a month from CPP. Because of it, his last days were filled with worry about bills.
MacNaughton knows that any changes made now won’t be of personal benefit to her. But she wants to make life easier for other families going through difficult situations like this. That’s why she had promised her husband she would fight for the change.
Her lobbying began five years ago when Peter MacKay was MP for the riding of Central Nova. She forged on when Sean Fraser was elected. She said Fraser then introduced her to Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, who is responsible for Employment Insurance. The MP also spoke about “David’s Cause” in parliament, then it was presented at the Liberal convention last year. MacNaughton said Fraser also brought it to the attention of the Canadian Cancer Society which recommended it to all parties.
MacNaughton knows it’s not a done deal yet, but if the Liberals win this fall’s election, she's confident it will pass. If they don’t win, she hopes the victorious party will see the importance of this.
“It’s something that has to be changed,” she said. “If the Liberals don’t get in then we’ll start over again with whoever is in there.”
She believes this is a truly non-partisan issue that could benefit all Canadians.
“It’s going to cost a lot of money, but it’s a doable amount. It’s not far-fetched. We have the EI benefits that we pay into.”
She encourages others who have a cause they care about to not give up and to continue fighting.
“I remember when I first started this they said, ‘it’s not an easy thing to do’ and I said, ‘I plan to live into my 80s and I won’t stop until it changes.’”
Five years into her fight, she’s pleased to see it’s happening.
“It’s so close to being a reality it’s scary,” she said.