New Alberta cabinet minister expects to become new mother next week

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WATCH ABOVE: Premier Notley announced changes to her cabinet Tuesday, including the addition of six new ministers. As Fletcher Kent reports, one of the new ministers will soon be assuming more responsibility at home as well – Feb 2, 2016

EDMONTON- One of two pregnant women promoted to cabinet by Premier Rachel Notley Tuesday will soon be taking on extra duties at home as well, possibly as early as next week.

Stephanie McLean, the new minister of Service Alberta and Status of Women, and Brandy Payne, just named associate minister of Health, are both pregnant.

Payne is expected to give birth to her second child in July while McLean is due on Sunday and is set to become the first MLA in Alberta to deliver a child while in office.

“I envision perhaps being in the hospital shortly after giving birth on a conference call,” McLean said. “The job of an MLA or a minister is the kind of thing you’re always on deck. If you’re sleeping, you’re still the minister.”

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McLean said both her family and the premier have been supporting and encouraging her and are confident she’ll be able to balance her responsibilities to both work and family.

“We’re going to accommodate that and make sure we’re a place where women can engage fully in the opportunities for leadership that all Albertans want and need,” Notley said.

“I know our cabinet and the government, as a result, will be stronger because of their representation.”

The premier said the two ministers who previously held McLean’s and Payne’s portfolios will fill in when the new ministers take time off. It isn’t yet clear how much time McLean and Payne will be taking.

Global News spoke to several new mothers in Edmonton to see how they felt about the possibility of a woman holding down a cabinet post while tending to a newborn child. For the most part, the reaction was very supportive.

“I think that it would be awesome to bring your baby and do all these things because she still would be very capable and bring so much more to the table,” Candace Diggles said. “We want to have women in politics. We want to have women of child-bearing age who are dealing with these things.”

“I think it’s fantastic,” Jennifer Onyshko said.

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“I think it’s really great. It gives working mothers and at-home mothers a voice in the cabinet.”

Diggles did concede, when considering the energy she expends on tending to her own young son, she imagines it will still be difficult for ministers to balance their duties, however.

“With, like, sleep deprivation and all the things he requires, I don’t think there’s much I could be doing, especially as a cabinet minister.”

Current rules do not allow for sitting MLAs to take paid maternity or paternity leave because politicians do not pay Employment Insurance premiums. Further, the rules require an MLA to lose $100 a day in pay if they miss more than 10 days in the house unless the reason is for illness, injury, bereavement or official business.

READ MORE: Alberta looks to change ‘archaic’ legislation around MLA parental leave

In November, Notley said her government would look into amending the rules to allow for more flexibility for new parents with seats in the legislature.

“It’s, I would suggest, an archaic piece of legislation in that respect and probably would not withstand the test of a charter challenge,” Notley said at the time.

Because no Alberta MLA had ever given birth while in office, the legislation hadn’t received much attention until McLean’s pregnancy became public knowledge.

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In the fall, the opposition Wildrose said it would support changing rules to make life easier for politicians who are parents of young children, including allowing them to bring their babies to the legislature.

-with files from Fletcher Kent, Caley Ramsay and Slav Kornik

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