It's getting harder to be a deadbeat dad (and it's almost always dad) in Canada.
The Saskatchewan government plans to deny hunting and fishing licences to parents who don't pay promised child and spousal support, emulating a measure already in place in neighbouring Alberta.
With trick-or-treat timing, Justice Minister Gordon Wyant introduced the legislation to amend the Enforcement of Maintenance Orders Act on Halloween.
“These amendments will provide another tool to ensure that individuals who owe child support or spousal support will meet their obligations,” Wyant said in a news release. “These options will only be used after several notices and warnings have been given.”
The measure will be used as a last resort, when other efforts to enforce payments such as wage and federal benefit garnishees, driver's licence and passport suspension fail.
Saskatchewan has one of the highest collection rates for overdue payments in the country, the ministry says. In the last fiscal year, it squeezed more than 91 per cent of payments out of delinquent spouses, totalling more than $39 million.
Deadbeat parents have always found clever ways to skirt their responsibilities, from hiding assets and income to outright vanishing acts. That's forced governments to become more creative in tracking them down and applying leverage to make them fulfill their financial commitments.
The Ontario government, for instance, has taken to displaying most-wanted style mug shots of delinquent fathers on its Good Parents Pay web site.
British Columbia, like other provinces, has the power to go after wages, bank accounts and other income sources, grab money from EI payments and tax rebates, place liens on property, withhold driver's licences and issuance of passports and other federal licences, as well as sic a collection agency on the deadbeat.
Alberta also withholds hunting and fishing licences, and will go to court to get at assets that a delinquent spouse may try to shield by keeping them in a company name.
The Northwest Territories' web page on the issue points out that leaving the country doesn't mean you've left your responsibilities behind.
"The [Maintenance Enforcement] Program has reciprocal enforcement agreements with all Canadian provinces and territories, all American states, and some foreign countries. Under these agreements, maintenance enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions can collect on behalf of the NWT Maintenance Enforcement Program for creditors who live within the NWT. This agreement also allows the NWT Maintenance Enforcement Program to collect funds from debtors who live within the NWT on behalf of other jurisdictions."
In Nova Scotia, expect the government also to take any lottery winnings, insurance settlements or inheritances. Licences and permits issued under the Wildlife Act would also be suspended.
[ Related: Deadbeat parent tracking legislation proposed ]
Prince Edward Island pursues the usual avenues for collecting payment and recently introduced legislation to make it easier for maintenance-enforcement workers to contact their counterparts in other provinces to track down deadbeats.
Quebec's Ministère de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale has the same tool kit as other provinces for enforcing support payments, and it has reciprocal agreements with other provinces, as well as a number of U.S. states that give judicial force there to court orders handed down in Quebec.
The Yukon's outline of its enforcement program notes the territorial government can request a default hearing that could result in the deadbeat ending up behind bars.
"Time served is a penalty; it does not reduce the amount of support owed," it says.