Babies in the House: B.C. to allow infants onto the legislature floor

Energy Minister Michelle Mungall (far left) will be bringing her soon to be child into the B.C. Legislative chamber. Richard Zussman/Global News

B.C. MLAs have been known for their occasionally childish behaviour on the floor of the B.C. Legislative Assembly. Now actual children will be able to be part of the action up close.

The assembly has changed the rules so that children, aged from newborn to two years old, will be able to accompany a parent into the chamber.

“The chamber is going to be just as it always has been,” said Government House Leader Mike Farnworth. “Question Period will still be Question Period. But there may be, time to time, a member with a child nursing and holding in their arms. They will probably be sitting at their desk or one of the seats behind.”

The Alberta legislature has similar rules. British Columbia’s change comes as Energy Minister Michelle Mungall gets ready to welcome her first child this summer. Mungall will be the second B.C. minister, following Christy Clark, to give birth while in cabinet.

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Mungall was moved to tears when speaking about the change. She is planning on taking a six-week maternity leave and her husband will take the provided year-long leave and will bring the baby to Victoria so the child can be close to mom.

“I wanted to make sure the Standing Orders would reflect that parents sometimes would need to bring their children onto the floor of the legislature,” Mungall said. “I immediately thought, If I was nursing and the bells rang for a vote, what would I do if I couldn’t pass my child off? I have to be in the legislature so I can be sure my constituents’ vote is recorded.'”

Liberal MLA Linda Reid gave birth to both her children while serving as an MLA. As a member, she spearheaded changes to maternity benefits and made baby change rooms available.

“I want every single person who has a child to be welcome in this place,” Reid said. “It’s taken us a long time. We didn’t have maternity leave. We were back here when my daughter was five days old.

“My daughter is 18 years old today. My son is 14. We have seen some enormous changes here. I want to give a huge tribute to Judi Tyabji, to Jenny Kwan, to Christy Clark and to current members who have young children. Your babies have warmed this place. There’s no question. May they return as members one day.”


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