Nfld. & Labrador

Babies on the floor: House of Assembly makes changes to allow MHAs to bring infants to work

After Sarah Stoodley gives birth in the coming weeks, she'll be allowed to bring her little boy to the House of Assembly.

Change welcomed by new minister Sarah Stoodley, who is 9 months pregnant

Sarah Stoodley rose from the backbench to a ministerial role in August. She plans to bring her infant child to work after giving birth, and a new change in the House of Assembly allows just that. (Patrick Butler/CBC-Radio Canada)

The legislature of Newfoundland and Labrador has made a small but significant policy change to allow elected officials to bring their babies to work.

The change was unanimously approved on Wednesday, due in large part to Digital Government and Service NL Minister Sarah Stoodley, who is nine months pregnant.

"I believe I might have been an instigator for this change," she chuckled as she spoke in the House of Assembly. 

"I'll hopefully be wearing him or have a little travel bassinet so he might be here asleep next to me. If he's too disruptive or something then I'll make other arrangements, and there's a big long line of people waiting to hold him."

Stoodley reached out to the clerk of the House of Assembly over the summer, ahead of the latest sitting of the legislature, to give notice that she was pregnant and the wheels were set in motion to allow children to join their parents on the job. The Department of Transportation and Works also added change tables to the washrooms.

Stoodley's comments received a standing ovation from all members of the House.

Passionate response from Opposition MHA

The policy change brought praise from Progressive Conservative MHA Lela Evans, who represents the north coast of Labrador.

Evans gave an impassioned speech on Wednesday about how easy changes like this make all workplaces more open and accessible, and gives women a clear message that they are welcomed.

"The only way you're going to get acceptance is by having a presence," she said. "The only way you can normalize something is by having a presence. And by having an infant in here with a parent, we will start to normalize it."

Torngat Mountains MHA Lela Evans says the policy change is a step to show women, and all parents, that they can run for a seat in government. (CBC)

Evans spoke about her female role models, including her aunt, who was the first woman in her community to work at the local store.

Evans said the family desperately needed money, but her aunt was turned down at first because she was a woman. After persevering and convincing the owner to hire her, she set a visible precedent in their community for women in the workplace.

There are 40 members of the House of Assembly in Newfoundland and Labrador. Only nine are women.

Evans said it saddens her to still be talking about lack of representation in government, but things like this are encouraging.

"If we want women in government, we have to find a way that women can be present in government. And that leads to acceptance."

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