As It Happens

Alberta MLA to become the first to have a baby in office - it may mean her pay is docked

Stephanie McLean was elected in the NDP sweep this spring. Her first child is due in February. What happens after the baby arrives is unclear. But, if McLean spends much time away from work, she could see her pay docked by $100 a day.
Alberta MLA Stephanie McLean is expecting a baby in February. She's the first member of the legislature to be pregnant while in office. (Stephanie McLean/Facebook)

Alberta MLA Stephanie McLean was elected in the NDP sweep this spring. Her first child is due in February. After the baby arrives, she won't get any paid parental leave -- and, if she's away from work for too long, she may even get her pay docked.

[Losing money] is possible, for certain. That's on the table.- Alberta MLA Stephanie McLean

"I view it as a big responsibility to tackle some important issues with respect to families and to women and new parents," McLean tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

She is happy to break new ground in her province, even though it might come at a personal cost. McLean notes that her milestone in Alberta comes 28 years after Sheila Copps became the first federal MP in Ottawa to give birth while in office.

Sheila Copps in the House of Commons in 2001 when she was minister of heritage. Copps broke new ground in 1987 when she became the first sitting MP to give birth. (Reuters)

"I think it's quite telling of the advancements that the province has made with respect to who they want to see representing them," McLean says.

MLAs do not pay into the EI system and, therefore, do not get paid parental leave benefits. On top of that, if they miss more than 10 days while the legislature is sitting, their pay can be docked by $100 per day. The only exceptions are for bereavement, public duties or illness.

McLean doesn't know yet how much time she'll take off. She says she'll decide after the delivery, once she understands her baby's needs and her own.

The decision to cut her pay, if she's away for too long, will be made by the Speaker.

"It's still quite up in the air at the moment," McLean says. "[Losing money] is possible, for certain. That's on the table."

NDP MP Sana Hassainia walks out of the House of Commons with her baby Skander-Jack on February 8, 2012. (Fred Chartrand/CP)

She intends to bring her baby to the legislature, once she returns. But she's still trying to figure out how it will work. The rules are unclear.

"I am in the process of setting up meetings," she says. "A lot of it is unsaid. There is nothing written with respect to security or bringing a child into the session."

The only stipulation is that no one in the legislature should be a distraction.

"That's a matter of discretion," McLean says. "It would be nice to be able to relieve some of those uncertainties for myself, but also for the future."


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