Calgary Councillor Jeromy Farkas came under fire on Monday after voting and speaking out against a motion to establish a parental leave policy for councillors.
Council members voted 13-1 to ask city staff to draft a policy, with the one vote against the motion being cast by Farkas.
The policy would look at how much leave a councillor would be entitled to, what kind of compensation they would receive and how the councillor’s constituents would be represented during the leave. There is currently no parental leave policy in place for Calgary councillors.
WATCH: In a 13-1 vote, Calgary city council approved a preliminary parental leave policy for its elected members. It sparked a heated debate. Gary Bobrovitz reports.
Farkas said taking a parental leave would be a “betrayal” of a councillor’s constituents.
“Every day we make really important decisions. If I’m not here in part of those decisions, I find that to be a betrayal of those who elected me,” Farkas said.
LISTEN: Jeromy Farkas tells Rob Breakenridge why he opposes parental leave for city councillors
Farkas went on to say he respected the motion’s intent to remove barriers and allow for a diverse range of candidates to run for council, but said introducing a parental leave policy “may be going down a line where we’re introducing unelected representation.”
“I don’t see this as an ordinary job. I think we’re elected to serve for a fixed term. This is not a job like any other. We give up a lot to be here, so do our families,” Farkas continued.
“I think we have a lot of job flexibility. And I think that the intent of this can be served within the purview that we have within running our own office hours.”
Several councillors criticized Farkas’ comments, saying they were surprised and offended by his opposition of such a policy.
“I can’t believe what I heard from my fellow councillor,” Jyoti Gondeck said.
“If this conversation was around somebody with a disability or an injury that kept you out of council chambers, we would do everything we could to figure out a way that that person could join in from home, or their hospital bed, or wherever it happened to be.
“I am appalled that someone would say that you cannot represent your constituents because you have a child.”
WATCH: Calgary Councillor Jyoti Gondek says she was ‘appalled’ by Jeromy Farkas speaking against drafting a parental leave policy for city councillors.
Councillor Peter Demong echoed Gondeck’s comments, saying in any other profession a person would have the option to take parental leave.
“If you turn around and you basically say, ‘You can only take this job if you promise to not have a child…’ I don’t even know what to say in response to that,” Peter Demong said. “I’m offended.”
Edmonton City Council passed a motion in January to allow councillors 26 weeks of parental leave, 10 weeks of which they’d receive full salary. For the remaining 16 weeks, the councillor would receive a percentage of their salary based on the duties they’re able to perform while on leave.
— With files from Aurelio Perri
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