Edmonton approves 26-week parental leave for city councillors

WATCH ABOVE: If you are considering running for Edmonton city council but also want to start a family, there are now less barriers. As Quinn Ohler explains, the city just approved parental leave.

Edmonton city councillors will now be able to take up to 26 weeks of parental leave, after a motion passed unanimously at city hall on Tuesday morning.

The bylaw is aimed at removing barriers to those looking at a career in municipal politics, as well as ensuring a diverse range of candidates are attracted to the possibility of running for city council.

“As a young father who didn’t have the opportunity while I was serving to spend any time with my kids — really, even the day after they were born — I have a personal sense of how significant this will be for future members of our council,” Mayor Don Iveson said.

READ MORE: 10-week parental leave approved by Edmonton city councillors

The bylaw permits parental leave of up to 26 weeks. Councillors will be paid full salary for the first 10 weeks of the leave. For the remaining 16 weeks, councillors would receive a percentage of their salary based on the duties they are able to perform during the leave.

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“The new parental leave policy is just great leadership from a progressive employer of 13 people who have very, very strange jobs,” Iveson said. “I also think it’s progressive leadership from the youngest city in Canada — a municipality that’s making it easier for women and young people to get involved in public life.

“This just addresses a major barrier in equity for elected officials,” the mayor said.

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Councillors will be required to provide written notice in advance of a leave. They will also have to provide details on how they plan to ensure their constituents are represented, the duties they plan to perform during their leave, and any workplace accommodations that are required.

READ MORE: New Zealand’s PM is pregnant – here’s how female leaders can make it work

Councillor Bev Esslinger said the bylaw sends a message that anyone can run for office, regardless of age or gender, and that council should reflect the community it serves.

“This applies to men and women,” she explained. “It applies by birth or adoption and it really makes us a more family friendly council.

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“It’s a milestone in our municipality, but [also] municipalities across Alberta for sure, maybe even across Canada,” Esslinger said.

Members of council will be entitled to choose their level of involvement during their leave, according to the bylaw passed Tuesday.

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— With files from Global’s Emily Mertz