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

City of Port Alberni issues water quality alert for Kitsuksis Creek area

Kitsuksis Creek residents urged to use alternate drinking water source

Rain and high winds to hit Vancouver Island this afternoon

Thursday and Friday to see downpour of 20 to 50mm and high winds on Vancouver Island

Learn the basics of publishing at Port Alberni workshop

George Opacic of Rutherford Press will present keys to the professional side of publishing

Septic truck rolls over without a spill west of Port Alberni

Single vehicle crash took place on Klekhoot Crescent

Vancouver Island partners sign hull design contract for floating LNG project

Steelhead LNG and partner Huu-ay-aht First Nations say the agreement was signed in Barcelona

Sproat Lake hosts fall dragon boat regatta

Port Alberni’s Sproat Ness Dragons earn third place

Horvat leads Canucks to 4-3 shootout victory over Kings

Vancouver dumps L.A. in NHL pre-season contest

Update: Search called off for missing plane between Edmonton and Chilliwack

Search efforts were concentrated along the Highway 5 corridor between Valemount and Kamloops

Why Whistler for ski jumping in 2026? Calgary proposal gets pushback

Calgary 2026 proposes re-using the 2010 ski jumping venue Whistler for that sport and nordic

Despite progress, threat of 232 tariffs dominates NAFTA negotiations

Any deal is seen to require congressional approval before Dec. 1 to survive new Mexican government

VIDEO: Hundreds line highway as family brings home body of B.C. teen

Northern B.C. showed their support by lining Hwy 16 as Jessica Patrick’s body returned to Smithers.

B.C. MP Todd Doherty receives award for saving man who collapsed on a plane

Conservative MP was flying from Vancouver to Prince George, B.C., in June last year

Alleged border jumper from Oregon facing 2 charges after police chase in B.C.

Colin Patrick Wilson charged with dangerous operation of motor vehicle, flight from a peace officer

More than 35 B.C. mayors elected without contest

No other candidates for mayor in the upcoming local election in 22 per cent of B.C. cities

Most Read