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NDP bill would end N.S. councillors’ need to ask permission for pregnancy leave

Click to play video: '‘Eliminates another barrier’: Political community reacts to potential maternity leave rights' ‘Eliminates another barrier’: Political community reacts to potential maternity leave rights
WATCH ABOVE: The Nova Scotia political community is reacting to the impact new maternity legislation may have on encouraging more women to run for public office. Alexa MacLean has more – Oct 25, 2017

Nova Scotia municipal councillors who are pregnant would no longer be required to ask permission from their councils for maternity leave under legislation proposed by the opposition NDP.

The bill introduced Tuesday by New Democrat MLA Claudia Chender would update the province’s Municipal Government Act and the Halifax Charter.

Chender said the idea is to drop the requirement for permission, while renumeration would continue for up to 52 meeting absences.

“Practically speaking what this will do is that women will not have to get the permission … of their mostly male colleagues to miss work because they’ve had a child and they won’t have to fear that their pay will be docked.”

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Chender said the province should be removing any barriers that keep women from running for office.

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“I sincerely hope (the bill) will encourage more women to enter municipal politics because they won’t have to make a choice between having a family or serving their communities,” she said.

Kings County councillor Megan Hodges, who was at the legislature with her five-month-old son Hollis, said she was pleased at the attention for an “overlooked” issue.

She said her council voted to give her 52 weeks off from her municipal duties, but she felt unease at having to ask permission.

“I was shaking a little bit when they brought it up and they discussed it on the floor,” she said. “It was just a little bit embarrassing to have to be the centre of attention that way.”

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Report tabled on Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children inquiry – Oct 20, 2017

Premier Stephen McNeil signalled the government’s interest in the bill, but said it could be missing a few pieces and Municipal Affairs Minister Derek Mombourquette is reaching out to municipalities to find out what is needed.

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“The mayors aren’t included in that piece of legislation and there are other aspects that we don’t want to miss,” said McNeil.

Chender expressed hope the bill could be passed during the fall session, but McNeil was non-committal.

Meanwhile, Chender said the legislature’s house management committee would be looking at maternity leave for provincial politicians.

Currently, members would have to ask the Speaker’s permission to miss more than three sittings of the house.

“All we need to do is waive that, basically. As far as MLAs are concerned the simplest way to do that is through the committee.”

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