Sooke Mayor Maja Tait

Elected officials fight for maternity leave

An AVICC resolution looks to enshrine parental leave in the Community Charter

When Canada Revenue Agency webmaster Michelle Kirby took maternity leave from her job to have kids, there was no question her position would be waiting for her when she was ready to return to work.

When Maja Tait returned to her role April 1 as the mayor of Sooke after spending four months off to be with her newborn son, Ewen, she was expecting the same kind of treatment.

It didn’t happen.

Instead, Tait discovered her duties as Capital Regional District director had been handed off to one her councillors on a permanent basis.

But what had potential to be a messy battle over parental and women’s rights has, she said, turned into something positive less than two weeks later.

Her CRD position has been restored, a potential rift with her council has been healed, she’s received an outpouring of support from her peers across Vancouver Island and the provincial government says it is open to changing the law to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.

“In hindsight, it was kind of a unique situation,” she said. “It was a good thing because it showed the gap in the legislation.”

As far as Tait has been able to determine, she is the first sitting mayor in B.C. history to take maternity leave.

Unlike a regular job, elected local government officials are not covered under the Employment Standards Act.

Instead, they are creatures of the Community Charter and Local Government Act, where the issue of maternity benefits is not addressed. Tait voluntarily gave up her $20,000 stipend as mayor and her $17,000 CRD stipend during her leave, the terms of which she had arranged with her council prior to booking off.

More significantly, elected officials can be disqualified from office for missing 60 consecutive days of duty. Without the cooperation of her council, Tait’s maternity leave could have led to her being dismissed.

Kirby called that an injustice that must be corrected.

In addition to her CRA job, Kirby is also a sitting councillor for the Town of Oak Bay.

Upon hearing of Tait’s situation on the eve of the April 8-10 Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities conference, she rallied delegates to pass a unanimous resolution supporting parental leave for elected officials that is consistent with employment standards.

That same resolution also asks for guarantees that those affected can return to work under the same terms that they left.

“It was pretty infuriating,” Kirby said. “First of all, it’s a fairness and equality issue, but (it goes) beyond that.”

The resolution has no power on its own, other than signalling the province of a desire to change the legislation.

According to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, the message has been informally received and will be considered when it formally arrives.

“If there are recommendations that come forward to make things as fair as they can be, then government will take a look at that,” the ministry said in a statement released to Black Press.

The statement also pointed out how, absent of any change, individual councils and regional districts have the power to address these situations through internal policy.

“Local governments in B.C. have the authority to adopt and amend procedure bylaws to address how council/board appointments are made…(including how to address changes to appointments to accommodate various types of leave).”

Sooke council had originally resisted returning Tait’s CRD duties, causing some friction. But it reversed that position Monday, in the wake of the AVICC resolution.

At her own suggestion, Tait will slowly transition back into her CRD role before returning to it full-time in September. She couldn’t be happier with the way the AVICC responded to the situation and hopes the government will follow through with the necessary legislative changes.

“What I saw at the AVICC was quite beautiful and quite moving,” she said.

“They offered me nothing but support and encouragement. This is something worth showcasing.”

Both Tait and Kirby said the best thing about the AVICC resolution is the message it sent to young women considering entering local government.

“There were several young women — and men — there who were extremely moved. It signals to them that we want them to stay,” Kirby said.

“It makes space and sends a message to encourage young people to the table.”

john.mckinley@blackpress.ca

facebook.com/albernivalleynews

twitter.com/alberninews

 

Just Posted

Husky Gas Station robbed on Third Avenue

Port Alberni RCMP still searching for suspect

New Coast Guard radar boosts marine traffic monitoring off B.C. coast

Six radar installations set up for Georgia Strait to Queen Charlotte Strait to Prince Rupert

Port Alberni care homes benefit from funding to purchase new safety equipment

Echo Village and Fir Park Village will be receiving $32,500 each

Uchucklesaht Tribe purchases former Redford School

Property will be a “multi-use building” similar to The Thunderbird

VIDEO: Stan Lee leaves posthumous message for his fans

Marvel Comics’ co-creator died on Monday at the age of 95

Doctor’s note shouldn’t be required to prove you’re sick: poll

70% of Canadians oppose allowing employers to make you get a sick note

German-born B.C. man warns against a ‘yes’ vote on proportional representation

Agassiz realtor Freddy Marks says PR in his home country shows party elites can never be voted out

Fashion Fridays: 5 coats you need this winter!

Kim XO, lets you know the best online shopping tips during Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Saskatchewan college honours memory of Humboldt Broncos coach

Darcy Haugan wore jersey No. 22 when he was a star player with the Briercrest College Clippers

Liberals to act quickly if Saturday midnight deal deadline breached: source

Oh Friday, Canadian Union of Postal Workers said it would not bring the latest offers to a vote of its members

Police probe several allegations of sex assault at Toronto school

Police say they have learned of other incidents of alleged assault and sexual assault

B.C. referendum ballot count jumps to 18% returned, Elections B.C. says

New count adds ballots received, but not screened for authenticity

Dead killer whale discovered on Nootka Island

“This is very concerning to our people.”

Most Read