by Tristan Turner
Morinville News Correspondent
Council voted 2-4 against future councillors having childcare costs reimbursed up to $4000 per year at their Apr. 25 meeting. Councillors FitzGerald and Putnam supported the motion. Mayor Lisa Holmes was not in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.
The Apr. 25 vote followed a Notice of Motion by Councillor Brennan FitzGerald a few weeks ago, a topic that was moved to the Apr. 18 Committee of the Whole meeting to gather further information and clarity.
After that discussion, a motion to return it to a regular Council for a proper vote and closure narrowly passed 4-3.
The new legislation would have allowed any councillor to claim childcare expenses while conducting official town business (primarily council meetings), up to an annual limit of $4,000. Other communities in Alberta and elsewhere in Canada have similar programs in place, including Canmore, Banff, and Okotoks.
The topic when initially presented lead to many responses from the public to councillors individually, on social media, and in the comment section of the original story on MorinvilleNews.com.
During the Apr. 18 Committee of the Whole discussion, councillors seemed agreed that, while there were some positive responses to the initiative, overwhelmingly the public disapproved of the reimbursements.
FitzGerald had moved the original motion to discuss the initiative, saying then that it was intended to remove barriers for people considering a run for Council, particularly single mothers.
During the Committee of the Whole discussions, Mayor Lisa Holmes commented saying, “I am concerned that there are barriers in our community for parents of children younger than eight years old.” However, Holmes thought that the primary barriers were not child care costs, but childcare access, clearer scheduling to fit with a parent’s schedule, and the behaviour of councils to women or aggressive comments that can be left by some members of the public to intimidate potential female candidates.
Holmes estimated her own childcare cost while serving as mayor were approximately $3,500 per year, and provided her calculations to Administration ahead of this discussion.
At the Apr. 25 discussion, Councillor FitzGerald argued for the initiative again saying that it was “just intended to eliminate barriers to increasing diversity on Council,” and noted that it would be inexpensive, only costing up to a maximum of $4,000 for councillors who do have young children and decide to use it.
Councillor Turner said, “residents are not in favour of councillors getting benefits that they themselves do not receive,” adding that he felt the larger barrier for parents is that there is currently no parental leave, something being looked at under the provincial review of the Municipal Government Act.
FitzGerald added that, for some women he talked to, this was a substantial barrier to them running for council, he hopped by passing the initiative it would “lead to more diversity on Council and therefore lead to better decision making.”
The motion failed with Councillor FitzGerald and Putnam supporting it.