Members of Parliament should plan ahead so they don't have to bring their babies in the House of Commons, Speaker Andrew Scheer said Thursday in a ruling on a controversy that erupted last week.
If plans fail, Scheer asked that he be given advance warning and said that as long as there are no disturbances related to a baby's presence, then he would have no cause to be concerned.
Scheer was asked to clarify the rules about having babies in the Commons last week after Quebec NDP MP Sania Hassainia told the media her three-month-old baby was kicked out. Her husband is usually on hand to help with their child, but Hassainia, who is breastfeeding, couldn't find him in time and had to bring the baby with her into the chamber because of a scheduled vote.
Fellow MPs began taking photos, which is not permitted in the Commons, and that prompted Scheer to dispatch a page to tell MPs to take their seats. Hassainia said she understood from the page that the baby was not allowed, but the Speaker's office said it was the taking of photos that was the problem, not the baby.
The incident prompted debate about whether Parliament does enough to accommodate mothers and whether there should be specific rules about whether babies are allowed or not.
Scheer said in his ruling that MPs were "flouting the rules" when they started snapping photos and that's what drew his attention to the baby. He said it would be "of great assistance" if MPs told him privately that they had a problem and that would help avoid the kind of situation that unfolded last week.
He said votes are normally scheduled in advance and MPs can "plan accordingly," it would only be because of an unexpected vote that MPs might encounter a child care problem.
MPs should raise problems with Scheer, not media
Scheer, who mentioned he is the father of four young children, said he recognizes that plans sometimes fail.
"When that happens, members may find themselves in a difficult position. In such cases, provided there is no other type of disruption or disturbance, the Speaker's attention will likely not be drawn to the situation and the work of the House can proceed as usual," he said.
He also said that if there is an incident MPs should talk to him directly instead of going to the media.
A parliamentary committee is going to review the rules of the Commons, and Scheer said he will welcome its input on what he called a "nebulous area."
He has also asked for a review of the accessibility of changing tables in washrooms to ensure there is a sufficient number for MPs who bring their children to work.