Alberta parties support better parental leave for politicians, mum on specifics

Alberta's Opposition Wildrose party says it would support changing rules to make life easier for politicians who are parents of young children, including allowing them to bring their babies to the legislature.

EDMONTON — Alberta’s Opposition Wildrose party says it would support changing rules to make life easier for politicians who are parents of young children, including allowing them to bring their babies to the legislature.

“I am very, very excited to have baby snuggles,” Wildrose member Angela Pitt said. “I think that is something that would be very nice on a bad day.”

“In my opinion the baby needs to be welcome in the legislature. We need to be supportive of a plan that works.”

Pitt’s comments come as the government grapples with how to deal with Stephanie McLean, an NDP member of the legislature who is expecting a baby in February.

Under current legislation, members can’t take paid parental leave because they do not pay into Employment Insurance. Any member who misses more than 10 days of work will have their pay docked by $100 per day, unless it’s for illness, injury, bereavement or official business.

Premier Rachel Notley, whose 53-member caucus includes 25 women, has promised to change that rule, which she has called archaic.

But Notley said the government must also come up with a policy on just how much parental leave a politician should be able take before returning to work.

She said the parental leave policy must balance the responsibility of politicians to represent their constituents with the fact that other women get a full year of maternity leave.

Earlier this year the federal Liberals proposed more flexible parental leave proposals for the general public under EI rules, including extending the time period to 18 months and giving parents the legal right to ask their boss for more flexible working conditions, including the ability to work from home.

Notley, who has two children, has joked that earlier in her career she wishes she could have shared her political duties with a caucus colleague.

“I think what we are likely going to be looking at is trying to inject flexibility into how the job is done to encourage women and young women of child-bearing years to be politicians and to be active,” she said.

Notley and other NDP officials declined to provide details of proposals on how the government will achieve its goal of a more family-friendly parental leave policy for members of the legislature.

Wildrose was also not prepared to be specific about what ideas it is prepared to put on table.

Pitt, who has two children, noted that being a politician is not like other jobs. She said all Albertans need to be treated equally.

“We will have to see how well this government can work together,” she said. “There are a lot of moms and dads in this legislature who will be understanding of the situation.”

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