The province’s first sitting MLA to give birth while in office is back at work with the goal of making the legislature a more family friendly place — starting Tuesday which is International Women’s Day.
Minister for the Status of Women Stephanie McLean will make history again when she brings her baby Patrick, born last month, to the legislature for the throne speech.
That move comes as government house leader Brian Mason confirmed legislation will be introduced in the spring legislature sitting to allow MLAs to take maternity leave for the first time.
“It will deal with the question of MLAs who may be pregnant or have newborn infants and how they will function in terms of maternity leave,” Mason said Monday,
“Right now there are very limited criteria for missing session and they include illness and so on, and I think the point’s been made and very correctly that pregnancy is not an illness, motherhood is not an illness, and so we need to make provision for that.”
‘Anachronistic’ and ‘punitive’
Last November McLean spoke out about the lack of legislation to allow MLAs to take parental leave. Speaking to reporters Monday, McLean described the gap as “anachronistic” and “punitive.”
“I am back so that’s not going to affect me in any way,” said McLean. “But we want to be able to make sure that should an elected representative in the future make a different decision from what I have that they’ll be supported financially, as well as in many other ways if doing their work in the legislature.”
But McLean said her new ministry’s mandate to address gender inequity goes well beyond the legislature. She said it also includes increasing women’s economic security, leadership and democratic participation, as well as decreasing violence against women and girls.
McLean’s comments follow government consultations with 180 individuals from community and indigenous groups, as well as post-secondary institutions.
“Women talked about how institutions and old ways of working are built around sexism and stereotypes that fail to hear women and address their needs,” she said.
She noted there is support for policies and laws that allow women to overcome discrimination rooted in poverty, colonial legacies, racial stereotyping and discrimination based on gender expression.
To do that, McLean said her ministry is working closely with other ministries “to ensure that women’s voices are heard and represented in all of the work that we do.”
She said the government has also formed a subcommittee on members services that will look at ways to make the legislature more family friendly long term.
She said restrictive rules in the Alberta legislature show “we have a long way to go.”
“So this new ministry is going to help a lot with making those advancements for all women across the province,” said McLean.