Pregnant Alberta cabinet ministers could pave way for more women in politics
Stephanie McLean and Brandy Payne were both sworn into cabinet this week and are expecting children soon.
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Advocates are hopeful Premier Rachel Notley’s appointment of two pregnant women to her cabinet will inspire more women to run for political office.
Both Stephanie McLean, the new minister of Service Alberta and Status of Women, as well as Brandy Payne, the associate minister of health, are expecting children.
McLean is in the last stages of pregnancy and expecting to deliver her baby any day.
She is the first pregnant MLA in the Alberta legislature’s history, and said she hopes her experience will be a model.
“I know that this is definitely breaking ground in Alberta and I hope that we will be able to make some positive statements with our actions,” McLean said.
Lana Cuthbertson, chair of Equal Voice Alberta North, a group working to get more women elected, said McLean and Payne’s appointments are important symbols to women considering running for office.
“We know that the more women can see people like themselves as politicians, as elected officials, as ministers, the more they think they might be able to do it as well,” she said.
Cuthbertson said managing a career in politics and a family is a concern the group hears from women about and it can keep them out of the race.
“A lot of women have concerns about childcare just coming to the events that we run, never mind if they were elected to office,” she said.
The Alberta legislature’s rules don’t currently offer maternity leave and, critically, punish MLAs who miss more than 10 days of a legislative sitting.
But McLean said so far everyone has been very open and accommodating to having the rules work for her situation.
“I am confident going forward we will be able to set some precedent in the house that shows it will be family-friendly going forward.”
She said opposition members have also been supportive so she doesn’t anticipate major challenges, but said the hurdles will be worked out.
“Nothing happens quickly, it took us a 100 years just to have a pregnant MLA.”