Nova Scotia removes maternity leave penalties for municipal councillors, MLAs - InfoNews

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Nova Scotia removes maternity leave penalties for municipal councillors, MLAs

Emily Lutz, a councillor and deputy mayor of Kings County N.S., holds her new daughter Azie as she and her two-year-old son Everett pose for a photo in this undated handout image. THE CANADIAN-HO-Emily Lutz *MANDATORY CREDIT *
April 06, 2018 - 11:51 AM

HALIFAX - A Nova Scotia deputy mayor cheered yesterday as the provincial government unveiled legislation enabling municipal councillors to take parental leave without penalty and without asking permission of their councils.

Emily Lutz gave birth to her daughter Azie just nine days ago.

"I'm incredibly thrilled, I think it's a barrier that is removed for young people who are interested in running for office," said Lutz, who is a councillor and deputy mayor of Kings County, N.S., and one of the women who pushed for the change.

Amendments to the Municipal Government Act and the Halifax Charter introduced Friday would allow councillors who are pregnant, or who have recently become a parent, to miss three council meetings without risk of losing their seat and without financial penalty for up to 52 weeks.

Under current legislation, councillors automatically lose their seats if they miss three consecutive council meetings, while parental leave is granted by a motion of council and leave requests can be publicly debated.

Also Friday, the legislature unanimously passed a resolution allowing all members to take parental leave without asking the Speaker's permission, as was previously required.

"It includes parental leave, pregnancy and illness," said Community Services Minister Kelly Regan, who brought the resolution forward.

Lutz said society has recognized for a while that maternity leave is something new mothers and fathers are entitled to.

"I think it will open the doors for younger people and women to want to get involved and to feel like they are included," she said.

Municipal Affairs Minister Derek Mombourquette said the municipal changes ensure elected officials can make personal family decisions in private.

"These amendments will ensure that any elected official in any municipality can make a personal family decision in private without a public debate or motion of council and that they can take extended leave without penalty," said Mombourquette.

He said the changes were developed with input from a parental accommodations committee, which included representatives from the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, the Nova Scotia Village Commission, the Association of Municipal Administrators of Nova Scotia, and the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

The municipal changes would also allow any elected official to return to committees on which they serve after parental leave.

Parental leave was also highlighted by Lutz's council colleague Megan Hodges, who appeared at the legislature last fall in support of an NDP private member's bill, saying the issue had been "overlooked."

The NDP bill was tabled by Claudia Chender, who said she was pleased by what the government presented.

"It's long overdue," said Chender. "We know that there is a barrier for parents ... entering political life and we believe that this will reduce one of those barriers."

Meanwhile, Lutz, who also has a two-year-old son, said she's particularly glad municipal politicians won't have to ask permission from their colleagues for something that can't be equated with being sick or taking a vacation.

"To see it (parental leave) as something that is recognized as a natural thing and part of human life, I think is important," she said.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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