Sylvan Lake is one of the first Alberta municipalities to adopt a parental leave policy for council.
Under the bylaw approved on Monday, a member of council is entitled to take up to 16 weeks leave before or after the birth or adoption of a child. Leave must start no earlier than 12 weeks before the delivery or adoption date and no later than 12 weeks following.
During parental leave, a councillor or mayor will receive 55 per cent of their base monthly honorarium.
In its preamble to the bylaw, the town says that “council recognizes that municipal government is enhanced when a diverse range of individuals pursue positions as councillors.”
Allowing for parental leave “reduces barriers to entry for council candidates who may become parents during their term of office.”
Town communications officer Joanne Gaudet said council was very supportive of giving those whose families are growing an opportunity to serve on council.
“We’ve got a young population. Over 50 per cent of our population is under the age of 35,” said Gaudet.
“If we can’t accommodate them on council, then we’re kind of shutting the door on a lot of opportunities and the potential skills and the potential talent out there.”
The door was open for legislated parental leave with recent changes to the Municipal Government Act, which sets the regulations for municipalities.
Prior to the provincial legislation changes, councils had the authority, on a case-by-case basis, to permit extended absences by councillors without them disqualifying themselves.
However, councils did not “have clear authority to establishing ongoing standards that would provide for extended parental leave on a system-wide basis,” says a report to council.
Since Sylvan Lake is one of the first municipalities to pursue parental leave, the proposed policy was run by its lawyers, who proposed only minor tweaks.