Navigating Edmonton city council as a parent

Click to play video: 'A look at how Edmonton city councillors balance work and family' A look at how Edmonton city councillors balance work and family
Many candidates running for city council in Edmonton have young families. Sarah Ryan speaks to the newest mom on council, as well as two outgoing dads about their experiences balancing the demands – Sep 10, 2021

A number of candidates running for public office in Edmonton have young families — a feat that wouldn’t have been as common decades ago, especially for women.

When Mayor Don Iveson was elected to council 14 years ago, he said paternity leave wasn’t even an option.

Both his son and daughter were born while he was serving the City of Edmonton.

 “There wasn’t a lot of accommodation at the time. I think we’ve come an awful long way. Now there are many more younger members of city council with children,” Iveson said.

He said there have been adjustments to the council calendar over the years, shifting the balance of work to daytime hours and largely freeing up nights with an eye on families.

Read more: Edmonton amends COVID-19 mask bylaw to clarify rules for performances, worship settings

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Now, Iveson’s kids are nine and 12, and he said he’s looking forward to spending more time with them when his term as mayor ends in October.

“While I was doing things more virtually from home or had [fewer] things to attend, I had an awful lot more time with my kids. And it turns out I really like them,” he laughed.

Councillor Michael Walters said it’s been challenging to juggle his career and his home life.

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COVID-19: Alberta doctors alarmed by spike in unvaccinated pregnant people ending up in ICUs – Sep 10, 2021

“The meeting’s going on too long, and I’m missing my son’s baseball game or a parent-teacher thing I’m supposed to be at, and I’m getting texts from my wife,” he said.

Walters said if he can give anything to candidates, it’ll be honesty. He says the job demands a lot of time, even on weekends.

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“I was always a little bit of grumpy dad on Sundays because I just had too much. I was was kind of overwhelmed with the reading, to be honest.”

His sons were six and eight when he was first elected. Now, they’re 15 and 17 — in high school.

Walters said his family is the primary reason he’s not running again.

“It factored in big time. I just wasn’t prepared to make that kind of time sacrifice while my kids were still at home.”

READ MORE: Will Edmonton see more women on council come October?
City council’s newest parent, Sarah Hamilton, gave birth to baby August recently.

According to the Searching for Izena Project, Hamilton is only the third female councillor in Edmonton to have a baby while in office — the first in nearly four decades.

Edmonton’s first female mayor, Jan Reimer, had two babies while on council.

“I’ve been taking phone calls from home and talking to constituents while I’m feeding August,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said she’s been getting a lot of support: from her partner Nick, her mom, their extended family and her colleagues.

“If I’ve had medical appointments or anything, they’ve been really accommodating,” she explained.

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Hamilton’s been in the job for four years now and doesn’t plan on leaving city hall anytime soon.

“This isn’t a job; it’s a responsibility, it’s a duty. And so I feel really strongly about continuing that work,” she said.

She said it’s important to have diverse voices on council, including ones with young families.

Hamilton believes being a mom will put a finer point on decisions about issues like urban planning and climate change.

If she’s successful in her re-election bid, baby August might become a regular at city hall, too.

“I’d like to bring him in council. We’re still in a pandemic situation, so we’re easing him into public life,” she laughed.

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