Proposed law would give Quebec municipal councillors longer maternity leave
'Women [shouldn’t] have to choose between politics and family,' says Projet Montréal councillor
A new private member's bill aims to allow municipal politicians to take more time off as new parents.
Parti Québécois MNA Carole Poirier tabled Bill 594, which would allow city councillors and mayors to be off work for up to 18 weeks, "if the absence is due to the member's pregnancy or to the birth or adoption of the member's child."
Currently, municipal councillors with newborn or adopted children may face fines and risk losing their seat if they miss more than 90 days of council meetings.
"There is no parental leave for elected officials and I think it's time because women [shouldn't] have to choose between politics and family," said Projet Montréal councillor Émilie Thuillier.
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In December 2014, Montreal mayor Denis Coderre came under fire for initially refusing to allow a Projet Montréal councillor to present a motion on Thuillier's behalf — she was nine months pregnant and having contractions.
Two months later and back at work, Thuillier faced a $100 fine if she missed a 10-hour council meeting, despite needing to be home to breastfeed her newborn son.
"We have to have something more official, and I think that the bill will be important for this," she said.
Elsie Lefebvre, another city councillor championing the bill, said there is a lack of support for municipal politicians with newborn children.
"In Quebec, we have the best family policies but elected officials have been completely forgotten," she said.
Lefebvre said there are almost no women between the ages of 18 and 40 represented in the government and more needs to be done to attract them.
Lefebvre suggests new parents could work from home and vote remotely.
"There are ways to be an efficient, present and responsible elected official without being a slave to an 18-hour work schedule," Lefebvre said.
Lise Thériault, the Quebec minister responsible for the status of women, has said her government is already looking into the issue.
"If we want to continue to have young women in politics [and] young fathers, we have to adapt our laws to not penalize them," she said.