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Proposed parental leave policy makes it easier for younger residents to run for council

'We think this is an important issue for council to consider when the next election comes up in 2024'
baby
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City council is making it easier for younger residents to run for municipal politics by implementing a parental leave policy that includes leave for five consecutive months.

Council unanimously approved a recommendation during the June 14 executive committee meeting to approve the parental leave for elected members policy. The recommendation will become official when approved during a future regular council meeting.

Highlights of the policy include allowing council members to take up to 20 consecutive weeks for pregnancy, birth, adoption, or parental leave; a council member must give six weeks’ written notice about the leave; a member must submit a parental leave agreement and comply with it; and the administrative review officer can investigate complaints against members related to the policy. 

In putting the policy together, city administration looked to other municipalities for examples, such as Spruce Grove, Alta., Waterloo, Ont., Peterborough, Ont., and LaSalle, Ont. 

Background

The idea for a parental leave policy arose after the council remuneration committee made recommendations last June about how much the mayor and councillors should be paid, explained city clerk Myron Gulka-Tiechko. 

One recommendation from the committee was to implement a parental leave policy to remove barriers to participation in the democratic process. This would also help attract a diverse range of candidates to run for council. 

Young people contemplating putting their name forward might be hesitant if they want to add to their family or are looking to adopt, said Gulka-Tiechko. If such circumstances did arise, a policy and bylaw should be in place, so expectations are clearly laid out. 

The Cities Act lays out the consequences for elected officials who miss three consecutive months: they would be disqualified and must resign.   

“We think this is an important issue for council to consider when the next election comes up in 2024,” he added.

Council discussion

This is a fair report, said Mayor Fraser Tolmie. It has also changed his mind about the need for a parental leave policy and how council should encourage more communities, businesses and levels of government to implement similar policies. 

He added that adopting this document brings Moose Jaw in line with current legislation in other municipalities and organizations. 

This document is valuable and council should have been proactive years ago in bringing one forward, said Coun. Doug Blanc. While this policy will not affect him or his family, he was curious about whether the practice could be applied to members who must look after an ill spouse or parents. 

That topic is not part of this policy, but that does not prevent council from passing a motion in the future if such an issue arose, said Gulka-Tiechko. 

The city clerk pointed to The Cities Act and how members cannot be absent from their duties for three full months without an excuse. However, shorter absences could be allowed and would likely affect the mayor the most since that position is full-time; councillors would not have the same pressure since those are part-time roles. 

“This is great information and it needs to be done,” said Blanc. “With today’s technology, you can Zoom in on meetings … it is something we should look at in the future. I absolutely support this (parental leave policy) and hope it opens doors to anyone who wants to put their name forward without reservation.”

The next executive committee meeting is Monday, June 28.