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Banff approves parental leave bylaw for elected officials

“This will help reassure them that there’s support there, that if they do want to start a family they can maintain both of those roles – a parent and an elected official.”
20211025 BanffCouncil10
Banff town council. GREG COLGAN RMO PHOTO

BANFF – Elected officials in the Town of Banff wanting to start a family will be eligible for parental leave.

Banff town council passed three readings of the parental leave bylaw on Monday (May 9), which will allow a councillor up to 26 weeks of parental leave with remuneration of about $345 weekly for a councillor and $628 for the mayoral position.

“I did have a baby in office and we did not have any parental leave policy at the time,” said Councillor Chip Olver, who had her youngest child in 1997 after being elected as a councillor in 1994.

“I am delighted that we are bringing this in for any future members of council who choose to start a family.”

In 2017, changes to the Municipal Government Act allowed Alberta municipalities to create maternity and parental leave bylaws for elected officials, leading to implementation of such bylaws in larger municipalities such as Calgary and Edmonton.

Last year, the public committee that reviews council’s compensation package recommended consideration of a parental leave bylaw.

Under the new policy, a councillor giving birth would get eight weeks of health-related parental leave and up to an additional 18 weeks of parental leave for a total of 26 weeks, and a councillor not giving birth would be eligible for up to 26 weeks of parental leave.

As part of the bylaw, there is also a requirement for a parental leave agreement to include ways to ensure the councillor’s constituents are represented during the parental leave, and any duties the councillor intends to continue to perform during all or part of the parental leave, among others.

A councillor on parental leave may attend council, committee meetings or events at their discretion.

Mayor Corrie DiManno welcomed the new bylaw, calling it “really progressive and really modern.”

“I am really proud of this one,” she said. “I love the mindfulness of keeping it gender neutral, of incorporating adoptions and as well as the unfortunate circumstances of a miscarriage or still birth.”

Mayor DiManno said she believes the option of parental leave will also help promote inclusiveness and diversity on council.

“It will help to attract folks who are interested in starting a family, and when we look at Banff’s demographic, a big part of our population is of that age,” she said.

“This will help reassure them that there’s support there, that if they do want to start a family they can maintain both of those roles – a parent and an elected official.”

Councillor Ted Christensen wanted to add a section to the bylaw requiring councillors attend a certain number of meetings via Zoom while on parental leave. However, he backed away from making any proposed amendments when it became clear there was no support for such a move from any other councillor.

Coun. Christensen said attending meetings via Zoom has proven to be efficient throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and would allow a councillor on leave to keep up with issues and information.

“I think it would be a benefit to the councillor and community to have that feedback on a regular basis,” he said.

But Libbey McDougall, municipal clerk for the Town of Banff, said members of council who are taking a leave would typically be stepping back from duties.

“I think it would be rather detrimental to the intent of the bylaw to put some kind of parameters on that you can take a leave but have to still participate in meetings,” she said. “It might put an undue burden on them to say that they have to come to a certain amount of meetings."

The bylaw will be reviewed during the last year of the council term.