Interventions in Board of Internal Economy
 
 
 
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View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
We are going on to the next item, the regulations respecting the non-attendance of members of Parliament by reasons of maternity or care of a newborn or newly adopted child.
We have some presenters here, and I will give the floor to you, Monsieur Dufresne.
Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2019-05-30 11:33
Thank you very much, Ms. Bergen and members of the Board of Internal Economy.
We are here at the board's request to talk to you about potential regulations that would enable us to justify the non-attendance of members by reason of maternity or care for a newborn or a newly adopted child.
Under the Parliament of Canada Act, a deduction is made to the members' sessional allowance for days of absence in excess of 21 days if the member is absent for no acceptable reason. The acceptable reasons set out in the act currently are illness, being on official or public business, or absence due to service in the armed forces.
In amendments to the Parliament of Canada Act, a new section 59.1 was added to provide the House with the authority to make regulations for the non-attendance of members by reasons of maternity or care for a newborn or newly adopted child. This provision was preceded by studies from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, where a recommendation was made to consider the family and parental obligations of members so that they would not be penalized for such reasons.
At the same time, questions were raised about the situation of members with respect to ordinary employees.
We have considered what is being done in other legislative assemblies.
Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2019-05-30 11:35
The situation of members is different from that of employees, as members hold public office they are always responsible for, even if they have children. What must be determined is whether non-attendance of members in the House to care for their children or by reason of maternity should be treated more seriously than other types of non-attendance covered in the legislation, such as for reasons of illness, public duties or service in the armed forces.
We've looked at other assemblies. Most of the legislative assemblies do not financially penalize members who are absent from the sittings for such reasons. Some will include periods and some will not. Indeed, some assemblies have looked at issues such as proxy voting in some such situations.
We have brought a proposal for the board's consideration that could consider as valid reasons for the absence from the chamber the period before the due date, given that the act talks about maternity for a pregnant member. That could be a period of four weeks or it could be a different period. In terms of care for a newborn child or care for a newly adopted child, consideration could be given to a period of 12 months or another period.
In any case, these would be decisions for the House to make. Options for this board could be to refer the matter to the procedure and House affairs committee or to have agreement that a member would put forward a motion proposing the regulations.
With that, I would open it to questions.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you for those comments, Mr. Dufresne.
I think that we are certainly supportive of making the regulations, such that pregnant or new parents are....
Just to be clear, we're talking about mothers here—primarily pregnant women, in this case. We're not talking about parental leave. This is more of a maternity situation, as I understand it. I just want some clarification on that.
Could you address that right off the top? Does this also apply if a father wants to take some time for paternity leave or is this just for mothers?
Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2019-05-30 11:38
Mr. Strahl, if we are talking about the four weeks before the due date, that would be only for the mother. The 12 months after the birth or after the date of adoption could be for any parent.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Okay. You've done some analysis here. With the employment insurance maternity and parental benefits, there are a maximum number of weeks that an individual is covered. We're looking at 13 months, with what you've put on the table. Unless there's a medical component to someone's maternity leave, I don't believe they would get the same number of weeks.
Did you do that analysis? Can you speak to that?
Philippe Dufresne
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Philippe Dufresne
2019-05-30 11:38
They would not. In terms of employment insurance, the supplementary report that was made in the procedure and House affairs mentioned 55% of income protection for such employees. There are some other employees with different regimes where it's a higher percentage.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Obviously, in this case we're talking about retaining 100% of pay and benefits, which is perhaps different from what our constituents would receive in most jobs.
For one of our constituents who works at a restaurant and pays into EI and goes on maternity and parental, I believe the maximum is 50 weeks, with a two-week.... I just want that knowledge for us. What number of weeks are we proposing here in addition to what someone would get if EI were the only support available to them?
Robyn Daigle
View Robyn Daigle Profile
Robyn Daigle
2019-05-30 11:40
I'll take that question. Thank you.
In terms of EI as the comparator, currently what's available to them through EI would be up to 12 months at 55%, or up to 18 months at 33%. I think one of the nuances we want to make here is that in the cases of EI, those employees are actually leaving the workforce. They're not employed during that period—they have no function—whereas here we're simply talking about reasonable reasons for non-attendance in the sitting. There are still functions that are very much current for the MPs at that time.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Right.
What is the vision for how this would be recorded? Would it simply be recorded on the attendance form that we currently use, or is that a decision that has to be made? Right now, there's travelling, official business, illness, etc. Will there simply be another box there that will say “pregnancy” or “parental leave”? What's the mechanism for reporting?
Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2019-05-30 11:41
Assuming that the House were to agree to adopt this regulation, the mechanism would be put in place and it would be recorded to say, “this is the reason for the absence”. In addition to having all of this, like service in the armed forces and public business, those absences would be justified, as it were—
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
—captured on that current reporting mechanism.
Okay. Thank you.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
I just have two general questions.
You said you have looked at what is being done elsewhere in other parliaments.
Can you tell me which ones? I assume they are mostly parliaments of industrialized countries?
Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2019-05-30 11:41
We have looked at legislative assemblies in Canada—those of the provinces and territories—as well those in Great Britain and Australia. A number of those assemblies had no deductions. For instance, in Quebec, there are no deductions in terms of income, but there is an issue concerning the ethics code—in other words, members have an obligation to attend the National Assembly. If a member is not at the National Assembly, they must provide a justification. Many assemblies operate like that.
Some assemblies say they want to do it, with the permission of their speaker, or allow it for personal or exceptional situations. We were wondering whether pregnancies were among those situations.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Have you seen any cases where non-attendance is allowed for paternity, for a period of time?
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