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Squamish council says ‘hell yeah’ to giving up powers to approve parental leave

Council signed off on parental leave for one member, but want the province to change rules so elected officials can take parental leave without colleague approval
Squamish municipal hall
Squamish municipal hall.

The District of Squamish (DOS) council has endorsed a motion to lobby the provincial government to change the community charter so that elected officials seeking parental leave don’t have to ask their colleagues to approve it.

Speaking at the May 7 regular council meeting, Coun. Jenna Stoner, who is expecting another child, bundled her request for parental leave with a request to advocate for change at higher levels of government so others wouldn’t have to make similar requests.

“I am still required to ask my council colleagues for a motion of leave,” she said.

“Although we do have a parental leave policy in place at the District … according to the community charter, I still need a motion from my council colleagues to be able to take that time.”

To change that, Stoner asked that the DOS request a meeting with the minister of municipal affairs at the next Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention to advocate for change.

While the DOS has a parental leave policy that was adopted in 2019 that allows councillors to seek and receive up to six months of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child, the provincial community charter remains the overarching legislative power and encompasses parental leave under absenteeism from council meetings, therefore requiring the elected official to formally request leave in order to not be disqualified from holding public office.

Stoner said that advocacy would be to remove that requirement, pointing out that while the province allowed municipalities to adopt parental leave policies was one thing, the provincial legislation still applied.

“I don’t think [the province] understand that you still at the end of the day need to bring a motion forward, so there is a risk that it gets politicized,” said Stoner.

“I would request that my council colleagues … take up a minister meeting on behalf of myself, future councillors, and the province as a whole,” she said, noting that she was unlikely to be at the UBCM Convention (scheduled for September) herself, as she would be on parental leave.

Mayor Armand Hurford noted that there was a “lineup” among councillors to second Stoner’s motion, with Coun. Lauren Greenlaw offering a succinct “hell yeah” in supporting it.

Coun. John French spoke to the motion, leaning into the political portion of removing council input on granting leave.

“Granting of parental leave shouldn’t be left open to political posturing that could result in an elected official being forced out of office because their council colleagues refuse to grant a parental leave,” he said.

“That’s weaponizing the system, and the current reality actually allows for that.”

Councillors unanimously approved both Stoner’s request for parental leave (to begin the day after the birth of her child), and her motion to advocate for change.

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