Roundup: Demands for MP parental leave

Some MPs are looking for changes to the Parliament of Canada Act in order to better accommodate parental leaves, given that they have no provision for them, and MPs start getting salaries clawed back if they miss more than 21 sitting days. (Mind you, records of those absences aren’t made public, so we have no way of checking). And while I’m sympathetic to the notion that there is no parental leave, I find myself sighing because there is this constant need by MPs and the press to describe Parliament as a “workplace,” and try and ham-fistedly force a number of hackneyed comparisons to justify it.

No. Parliament is not a “workplace.” And MPs most certainly are not employees.

I understand that it’s a job that’s not the friendliest for new parents. And I get that there is this desire to get younger voices into parliament, and there is a need to facilitate them, which is great. But I get very, very nervous every time MPs start talking about how they want to start changing things to make the place more “family friendly,” because every time they’ve done that to date, they’ve made things worse. Eliminating evening sittings to be more “family friendly” had a devastating effect on collegiality because MPs no longer ate together three nights a week. Now they’re looking to avoid coming to Ottawa altogether, instead appearing by videoconference instead, and no doubt they’ll demand to be able to vote remotely as well. And that is a bridge too far.

When you get elected, it’s to do the job in Ottawa. Work in the riding is secondary to your role as an MP, and that role is to hold government to account. Meeting constituents, while good small-p politics, is a secondary consideration to your duties. And the added danger in appearing remotely is not only a further breakdown in what remains of collegiality, it’s that the lack of facetime with other MPs and with witnesses who appear at committees means that there is no ability to forge connections or have off-script conversations, which are the lifeblood of politics. You need to show up to do the job. Your job is to be in Ottawa to vote and be seen voting, and to attend debate and committees. You knew that when you ran for office, and you knew that when you decided to have a child while in office. Trying to do this job remotely means that soon every MP will start to demand it, until the Commons is reduced to a small cadre of people there to fulfil quorum while everyone else attends to the “very important business” in their ridings.

The other point is that these MPs are not lacking in resources when it comes to finding childcare solutions – they are very well compensated, and can afford options that most Canadians can’t. That does matter in the equation, and why my sympathy has its limits.

Good reads:

  • Here’s the dubious and highly correlational piece about Morneau’s father’s share sales (with debunkings here and here). Morneau denied the insinuations.
  • The US wants to use NAFTA talks to force Canada to lower duties on importing American retail purchases; Canadian retailers say that creates an unfair advantage.
  • New lobbying and official languages commissioners were nominated yesterday.
  • The government has come to a settlement with First Nations groups on clarifying the Jordan’s Principle ruling that has been vexing them for months.
  • National security bill C-59 started committee hearings, and Ralph Goodale said that it will help combat homegrown extremism.
  • Survivor groups are disappointed that the government has not moved faster on stricter gun control laws.
  • Insiders speaking on background said that there wasn’t an Indigenous candidate on the short-list for the new Supreme Court justice.
  • Probably not surprisingly, Canadian and American officials have been quietly holding joint exercises to simulate dealing with a nuclear incident.
  • The NDP’s foreign affairs critic offered her committee spot to Thomas Mulcair during the upcoming trip to Asia, keeping him conspicuously absent from Ottawa.
  • The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the case of the VICE journalist trying to protect his notes and communications from RCMP search demands.
  • The Canadian Judicial Council won’t pursue an investigation into Vic Toews after he was cited for a conflict of interest.
  • Here’s a look behind the numbers on the Parliament Hill rink, and no, they’re not really out of line.
  • The Canadian Press’ Baloney Meter™ tests the Conservatives’ line that the government is giving handouts to ISIS fighters. (Spoiler: It’s a lot of baloney).
  • Senator Elaine McCoy crunches the numbers to prove that it’s not the Senate that holds up legislation (in most cases).

Odds and ends:

NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson lost her bid to keep her Private Member’s Bill going, so she plans to try and amend the government bill on the same subject.

Here’s a look at the difficulty in refurbishing the Government Conference Centre in order to turn it into the temporary Senate.

3 thoughts on “Roundup: Demands for MP parental leave

  1. Your assumptions are correct and as with any abandonment of one on one relationships and discussions and interaction, parliamentarians become nothing more than “remotes”; clickers of buttons who advise unelected bureaucrats to do for them what they should legitimately be doing FOR US.. . . “The most dangerous societal structure is the one which removes authority and responsibility from the hands of elected officials and places it in those of its bureaucracy. – 1998”

    • I think a more foundational question is: “Why are we still using representational instead of direct democracy in an age of almost universal connectivity?”

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