EDITORIAL: Maternity and parental leave should be the norm

Decades ago, Pakistan’s leader, Benazir Bhutto was questioned about her ability to be the head of the nation.

Not because of her level of competence, but rather because she started a family.

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Decades later, this issue would once again resurface.

Jacinda Ardern’s ability to lead was called into question amid speculation that she planned to have a child while in office.

She would later become prime minister of New Zealand, and that speculation would turn out to be accurate.

Ardern gave birth during her eighth month in office. She was still capable of leading the country.

So it is not news that women are capable of leading while having children when they are in office. Yet in many places, that still remains a topic up for debate.

On a positive note, there are some places that are shifting their thinking. In Canada, with respect to municipal politics, provinces such as Ontario have adopted laws that help uphold the right of municipal politicians to take maternity or parental leave.

Yet in B.C., we remain stuck in the past.

The provincial legislation governing municipal politics, the Local Government Act and the Community Charter, fail to guarantee those rights — rights, which are already granted to all employees in this province.

As a result, any municipality in B.C. that wishes to ensure maternity and parental leave is available to their elected officials must take matters into their own hands and craft their own policies.

It is a sad state of affairs that this is not the default option here in B.C.

In the meantime, Squamish has become the second municipality in the province to adopt a policy guaranteeing elected officials the ability to take maternity and parental leave, by the District’s count.

Whistler was the first.

This is a welcome development, and Squamish should be proud to know that it is a leader in this respect.

Constituents should be pleased to know that this will help unlock the potential of at least half the population to run for office.

And while, yes, maternity and parental leave affect all genders, we would do well to talk about it in the context of women, as this issue is almost without exception weaponized against them.

It’s a good thing that Squamish has made this change.

But it shouldn’t be unique enough to make headlines, nor should it have to be the subject of an editorial.

Instead, it should simply be the norm.

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