It's time to extend a version of parental leave to Members of Parliament: report
MPs say technology should be used to allow parents to stay at home with children and keep working
A new House of Commons report is asking the Liberal government to extend pregnancy and parental leave to sitting Members of Parliament.
The report from the procedures and House affairs committee said MPs should no longer be penalized for being absent from Parliament due to parental leave or pregnancy.
MPs currently do not receive federal parental leave benefits because they do not pay into Employment Insurance, requiring them to use sick leave to take time away from the House after having a child.
"Maternity or paternity leave is really not the same as sick leave," said Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould, who is pregnant. Gould said it is time Parliament adopts a parental leave policy.
"Now we actually have this little critical mass of four women MPs who have either recently had babies or are expecting," said Gould. "And so it's just become more of a reality."
Right now, if MPs miss more than 21 days in a sitting session, their salary is clawed back by $120 a day.
The committee's report said an MP "should not be penalized monetarily for his or her absence from Parliament due to pregnancy and/or parental leave."
It called on the government to amend the Parliament of Canada Act to state "...that pregnancy and parental leave be reckoned as a day of attendance of the member during a parliamentary session for the purposes of tabulating deductions for non-attendance from the sessional allowance of a member."
Quebec MP Christine Moore has two children; Daphnée 2 years-old and Laurence 7 months old.
Moore, the MP for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, said leave for MPs could differ from traditional parental leave in many ways. When it comes to the duration of leave, she said it could be anywhere from weeks to several months.
"It just means that people won't be requested to work in Ottawa physically" said Moore. "But this person will still work in his or her riding, representing their constituents, meeting people."
Because Moore breastfeeds Laurence, she brings her baby to Ottawa. That requires taking two planes and travelling up to ten hours from her riding.
"It's a lot of travelling so it's already something difficult for an adult for an MP," said Moore. "Now we ask the baby to travel, it's another thing. So I think it's the most difficult part."
Moore and Gould both said technology can help MPs who take parental leave continue to work while in their ridings.
"We have witnesses appear via teleconference or video conference, why can't we do that for MPs or ministers as well," said Gould. "There are many ways that we could use technology to be able to facilitate some of those changes."