FitzGerald wants councillor childcare reimbursed

by Tristan Turner
Morinville News Correspondent

The next council may have their childcare costs covered during Town meetings following a motion from Councillor Brennan FitzGerald. The Notice of Motion came forward at Council’s Mar. 28 meeting for debate. It calls for the reimbursement for childcare services offered to councillors during official Town meetings/business, provided the amounts were reasonable.

FitzGerald argued his motion was intended to provide more opportunities for single parent residents to consider running for council and would “enable more women to be able to run for council.” Fitzgerald stated that while the motion is not gender specific (any councillor could be reimbursed for childcare costs) the intent of the motion was targeted at enabling more women to run for council, which has always had a majority of male members.

The motion received a lukewarm reception from some councillors, but responses were generally positive. Councillor Stephen Dafoe commented saying that after having spoken with some residents about the idea, “they said well… nobody pays for my babysitter [when I have to go to work].”

Dafoe went on to say that councillors already get a per diem for attending meetings, and this could potentially be applied to childcare costs. Further, he went on to argue that the motion should have a cap on maximum costs that would be covered, rather than simply “what is reasonable.”

Mayor Lisa Holmes noted her clear support saying “it’s absolutely necessary.” She related her own experience of having to pick up childcare costs because of her role.

Many other members of Council noted their general support but thought t hat the mechanics of the legislation needed to developed, including caps on the amount. Councillor Barry Turner made a motion to differ the motion to Committee of the Whole (COW) for further discussion, which passed unanimously.
Multiple councillors have since asked for comments on social media on the public’s response to the concept ahead of April’s COW meeting where the idea will be furthered discussed.

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35 Comments

  1. I don’t think the residents of Morinville will accept this very well. We are all paying our own childcare costs when choosing to go to work. Some people pay higher daycare bills than mortgage payments.

  2. To Brennan & Mayor Holmes: Seriously?? what else would you like to burden the taxpayers with? A lot of the taxpayers have either lost their jobs or are living pay cheque to pay cheque. You need to get out in the real world and look at ways to save taxpayer’s money. It appears that the only councilor that has his stick on the ice is Stephen Dafoe… can’t wait til the next election. Hope he runs for mayor.

  3. So the Mayor thinks this is absolutely necessary. Does that mean we should pay for her child care while she is away on Provincial and Federal committees as well?

    What of those councillors that have to pay for spousal care while they attend meetings? Should we pay for that? A situation based in fact.

    Should a Grandma on Council be compensated because she cannot look after her grandchildren on nights when there is council meeting causing her extended family hardship?

    What of those councillors that can’t attend to their work obligations to attend meetings? Should they be compensated at their regular career pay instead of their meeting per diem?

    Perhaps a councillor does not own a suit. Should we give him a gift certificate to Moores?

    Our elected representatives need to get to the meetings. Should there be a vehicle allowance to make sure they can get to the Town Office?

    Where does it end?

    When you put your name forward to represent the citizens of our community on the Town Council you know what the compensation is.

    A few questions… If you want to be on the Town Council are doing it to build your resume? Are you doing it for the money? Or are you investing your time and efforts into building the best community you can for the residents of Morinville?

    I know who I’m voting for !

    • I think that having the conversation about what barriers different residents face when deciding to run for public office is “absolutely necessary”. Paying for childcare costs may not be, but we will discuss that more in detail when this item comes to Committee of the Whole and use the input received here and through other sources to aid in the discussion. There are significantly different barriers for different genders (which I know that you realize Lloyd, seeing that the AUMA committee created to look at those barriers was formed during your time on their board) as well as between different ages or life situations. Before an election is a great time to have those conversations and I am happy that Councillor Fitzgerald put the discussion item forward. Whether or not it is something that will be actually decided upon (or even considered) by this Council is to be determined.

      As far as I have found (and please clarify if I am wrong), I am the only woman who has had pre-school aged children and served on Town Council in Morinville in over 100 years. So I’m going to make the assumption that there is something holding other women back. Childcare may be an issue (it wasn’t for me) but I’ve got some other ideas that I’ll put forward at COW for discussion that might address the issue in a way that won’t cost money and still make our Council positions more friendly to those with young families.

      ~Lisa.

      • Thanks for your reply Lisa.

        As you well know, I support the tenet that all residents should have the opportunity to run and get elected to Municipal Councils.

        I had the privilege of serving with any manner of “parents” of pre-school, school aged, and university aged children. Also with Grandmas and Grandpas. And everyone in between.

        I believe ( and I stand to be corrected ) that Councillor Manisterski (sp) also had preschool aged children.

        But does that matter?

        My preference is to have individuals that care about their community so much they are prepared to put their time, effort and resources into serving as an elected official to make our community a great place to live.

        I don’t care what their gender, race, religious affiliation, age or parental status is.

        The vast majority of the elected people I had the privilege of working with in Morinville, the Province, and across the Nation served because of their love for their communities, not for themselves. I am sure you have experienced the same.

        As I understand, the Council engaged a committee to review Council compensation so anyone contemplating running for Mayor or Council knows what their financial compensation will be.

        So the question is, Why didn’t the idea of compensating councillors for child care come up during that review?

        Glad to hear you have some no cost ideas to encourage anybody that wants to run for council, can.

        Lloyd

        • Well wrote Lloyd B.
          Mayor Holmes: will your “no cost” ideas truly be “no cost”. e.g. no burden or extra time spent on administrating your ideas as there is little in life that is truly “no cost”. Brennan’s motion showed an additional tax burden on the taxpayers of Morinville and it is apparent that he did not think through the ancilliary cost of instituting this program, which creates a burden on the taxpayer (cost of the actual program and the administration of same)

        • I was part of the council compensation committee and I can say it never came up as when we were doing the research of many more than 3 municipalities it never showed up. The committee also equally represented with male and female members never once had that discussion come up.

          I know when I was on council it made a significant impact on my business. Maybe we should provide a subsidy for anyone stepping away from a business to assist them with their financial impact. That way we could provide an open opportunity to encourage people who may not consider running because of the financial implication on their business…. I’m sure you can see this is sarcastic but it shows how ridiculous this line of thinking is.

          • Sheldon, the “slippery slope” argument is probably one of the most useless arguments that is made in politics. It prevents so much action from being taken.

            The topic at hand is this idea to have a relatively small some available to those who might need it to help out with some of those extra costs associated with serving.

            The conversation is not about compensating for lost business dollars, obviously.

            The conversation on removing barriers for people, especially women, is a topic I think (and sincerely hope) we can all get behind and discuss. It’s important.

            Hopefully you understand that.

            This motion may not be the way to go about it, but it’s one possibility. Let’s talk about other possibilities as well, and let’s work towards solutions – because there is a problem.

            I hear and am receptive to your opinion, and everyone else’s that I’ve heard from.

            Thanks for the input.

            ~B

          • I think what I’m understanding you say is that my barriers are less important than that of someone needing childcare… Not sure how I feel about that…. Not much of a slope either. Not one person posting agrees so I would hope our council sees the motion for what it is.

  4. Way to go Mr. Fitzgerald! I’m afraid I have to agree with every other comment on this issue.

    Tell you what – How be you check with the firm supplying your new company with those ‘save the whales’ clothing items. Ask them what THEY do about childcare costs for their employees. If they leave that responsibility to their employees, cancel their contract and keep doing that until you find a company that pays all childcare costs on behalf of their employees. Somehow I rather doubt that you will even consider that option. So why is it that you and our erstwhile Mayor would even consider saddling the taxpayer with yet another of your pet projects?

    Sometimes I just cannot believe what you people are trying to do… Now I know why I stopped going to Council Meetings!

    You all have a fine day!

    • It seems to me that our council directed research which aided this new business venture as well… And even worse this motion came from someone who doesn’t even pay property taxes. I would say that in the real world every job comes with expectations and responsibilities, paying for the childcare of your children would be expected.

      • Not sure what you are implying, Sheldon. That would be a significant pecuniary interest issue. Critique the motion freely, but implying that there has been some form of abuse in regards to my personal business pursuit is completely inappropriate and untrue.

        I would invite you to contact me directly to discuss this further if you wish.

        And in terms of your property tax comment, the legal age to seek elected office is 18. Further, many individuals rent rather than own. Suggesting that that large portion of the population is unfit to serve on town council because they do not own property is, in my opinion, ridiculous. Everyone has a voice, something to contribute, and a right to seek office.

        ~Brennan

          • Then I am confused by your comments, Sheldon. I am a renter myself. Property tax is typically paid by a landlord.

  5. What an embarrassing motion… Please someone make a motion to move the election up so it can happen tomorrow. I think that’s “absolutely necessary”.

  6. Like every decision made by Council, community input plays a major role in whether motions are supported or defeated.

    The motion has generated a good and important discussion about barriers to entry – and discussion is always a good thing.

    Childcare can be a barrier to many people, especially women, in seeking any job, so it’s important to have a conversation around this.

    I look forward to more conversation at Committee of the Whole regarding the motion and possible next possible steps.

    I appreciate everyones (respectful) input.

    ~Brennan

    • May I publicly ask you to respond what research you did prior to presenting the motion? My understanding is none as it appears that the responsibility of research has fallen back on administration costing us the taxpayers yet again… I do think that if you are bringing up such a motion that you could put forth some effort ahead of time and bring an educated discussion forward at that time.

      • It was Council’s decision to send the subject back to admin for further review, with more info being brought to Council at the next CoW meeting.

        As I reported that night, my initial research looked into municipalities who currently have this practise in place (Banff, Okotoks, Canmore) and as well as a number in Ontario.

        I provided an opening debate that included my initial research and conclusions from it when it was discussed last meeting.

        So, to your question, yes. I did put forth effort ahead of time, and in fact brought forward the notice of motion well in advance of this past meeting, allowing my fellow councillors plenty of time to consider the idea and come to council with questions and comments prepared, as many did.

        ~Brennan

        • Mentioning 3 municipalities is not research. Did you present information to your colleagues in a package of information outlining the existing policies? Simple yes or no only.

          • I gave a verbal report on my findings in my opening debate, as is standard practice at council meetings. Formal information packages are not typically part of motions. I do not believe I have seen one from a Councillor led motion in my time on Council.

            The second motion I made that night (which Morinville News has also done a story on) was in regards to live streaming council meetings. Hopefully this motion will pass at the next council meeting so that you could go onto the town FB page and view the meeting yourself to listen to the debate and information presented.

            Alternatively, you are welcome to stop by the town office to listen to a recording of the meeting if you’re interested in what information I brought forward.

    • I like the fact you are willing to debate this openly online.

      So would you consider providing such a policy for all municipal staff to allow people to enter the workforce who otherwise may not consider it or would this just be some elitism style policy to only cover elected officials who already have given a higher raise to the next council than was recommended by a public committee?

  7. I’m very happy to engage with folks on comment sections of MorinvilleNews, or on social media, or through emails, etc. That’s part of the job.

    My motion is just regarding council. While childcare can sometimes be a barrier to entry into the workforce for people in any industry – municipal government included – the intent of this particular motion is to reduce those barriers for people wishing to serve our community.

    Most folks who put their name forward are probably already working another full time job, and for those people who are already paying for childcare during their day job, it can potentially become very difficult to pay for additional childcare associated with a role on Council. The remuneration of councillors, while fair, is not an incredible sum. As was addressed by the public review committee themselves, there is a degree of volunteering that is associated with the role. So, with that in mind, can this change help alleviate some of the barriers to particular people in our community who wish to seek a seat? Perhaps.

    Is access to childcare remuneration going to be THE deciding factor in choosing to run? Probably not. But it can help.

    The intent of the policy change is to make things a little more accessible to people who may not have the luxuries of help with childcare at home, or the financial resources to pay for the additional childcare that could be needed.

    But it is getting late so I’ll leave it there for tonight.

    There is a lot more debate and points to raise on both sides, so I hope to see you at the next committee of the whole, Sheldon, when we talk more about this!

    Cheers.

  8. The problem with doing what a few, or many other Municipalities offer, is you wind up with gold plated services. And the tax burden to go with it.

    In the following diatribe, I have done no research ( sorry Sheldon ) and I have absolutely no idea if any Munis offer these benefits to their council or residents. I highly doubt it as I have used hyperbole on purpose.

    These services a muni could offer are only used as an example for the purposes of making my point.

    Muni A offers babysitting for the council and all residents. That is the gold standard.

    Muni B offers subsidized water rates for seniors. That is the gold standard.

    Muni C offers no user fees for their recreational facilities. That is the gold standard.

    Muni D offers snow removal as soon as there is any snow on any roadway. That is the gold standard.

    I could keep going but my point is made.

    If the Morinville Town Council decides to match ALL the Gold Standard level of services to the residents provided by one, ten or thirty Municipalities you will wind up being the highest taxed jurisdiction in the Province.

    Granted, Morinville would be the Gold Standard Municipality in the Province. Perhaps the Nation. Maybe even in North America. But at what cost?

    One of the most prevalent questions I heard over the years is what do I get for my tax dollars?

    Is this “absolutely necessary” Gold Plated standard of providing babysitting for the Mayor and Council now one of the answers?

    As I mentioned in my earlier comment. Where does it end?

    We are certainly seeing where it is starting.

  9. Brennan & Mayor Holmes: one needs to look at what the bosses (taxpayers) are writing here. The comment section reads that the taxpayers (your bosses) are NOT in favor of you moving forward, or spending anymore time discussing or providing childcare for council. Brennan, it’s good that you are starting a business. You will be able to see what life is like in the real world and it will be interesting to see if your company’s benefit package will include such things as paid childcare. And to the council, the election is coming. Things like this will be remembered as was Custer’s last stand.

    • As I said above, “Unbelievable”, community feedback plays a critical role in the decisions of council and the decisions I make as an individual councillor.

      I think the intent of the motion has been lost in translation a bit, which is unfortunate. I believe making Council accessible to more people can only be a good thing. The compensation could be accessed only when other childcare arrangements could not be made. Historically, most elected members of Council no longer had young children while they were serving. Personally, I’d like to see more parents, more single parents, and especially more women, seek a council seat. This was one way to potentially help that become a reality.

      The opposition to the idea is fine, but let’s also acknowledge the fact that some of our residents face greater barriers than others when it comes to seeking office. So lets work to help fix that.

      And not to worry – I am well aware of life in the “real world”. Thanks though.

      ~B

  10. I’ve heard it said, that for every person who writes in, there are 9 more who feel the same but do not write in.
    That said, there is not a single supporting post, only dissenting posts!

    The ideal, and bringing it forward were not wrong.
    (And I don’t think anything was lost in translation)

    The mistake would be in continuing with the debate when, although small in size, the feed back above is very clear.

  11. I must say i haven’t seen this much reaction in the comment section since the photo radar petition. With that said, we don’t have to write anymore comments about Brennan & Mayor Holmes “absolutely necessary” motion to have paid childcare as this issue has now been solved by the NDP provincial government announcing today that they are going to study $25./day daycare. And you can believe that come the next provincial election that fully funded childcare will be one of the NDP’s election platforms. So now the town of Morinville councilors will be able to use the Provincial Government funding for their childcare program. Hallelujah, the taxpayers of Mornville have been saved by the provincial taxpayer! OMG…me thinketh with this cometh a provincial sales tax.

  12. Believe me unbelievable, the cost of the Provincial governments’ plan for childcare will be accounted for in one way or another. Guaranteed to be passed on to each municipality, much like the school tax hike.

  13. Right…Phil… that’s why me thinketh will cometh a provincial sales tax and a debt so high that this province will never see the light of day. And it will all be borne by us, the taxpayer in some form or other.

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