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Up to 16 weeks of paid leave, pension benefits for new Coquitlam council

The next Coquitlam city council elected in the fall will be given a greater personal leave than what's in the provincial charter.
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Thinking about running for city council?

Coquitlam changed its policies this month to attract a greater diversity of candidates for the Oct. 15 election.

At its June 13 public meeting, council unanimously voted to allow personal leaves that go beyond what’s required in the provincial Community Charter — the legislation that governs how B.C. municipalities operate — as well as to provide pension benefit allowances.

The measures will take effect for the next city council.

Currently, the Charter allows for a council member to be away for up to 60 consecutive days or for four consecutive regularly scheduled council meetings, unless a local politician is injured or ill.

If they’re absent for a longer period, they may be disqualified from holding public office.

But under Coquitlam’s procedures, newly elected officials will be able to take a paid personal leave for up to 16 weeks or until the end of their council term — whichever comes first  — for maternity and/or parental duties, as well as for compassionate care/caregiver leave.

Equity, diversity and inclusion

Nikki Caulfield, Coquitlam’s general manager of corporate services, told council the changes dovetail with one of the city’s themes for 2022: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

She said the aim is to encourage more local residents to apply for a civic position and "remove systemic and institutional barriers."

Coun. Steve Kim pointed to a 2020 study by the Samara Centre for Democracy showing the lack of diversity with municipal councils in Canada; the demographic is largely older white men with white-collar backgrounds.

Kim said the new measures will go a long way in helping people decide if they want to run, especially parents with young families.

"I think this is something that's putting [the city] in the right direction and I think it’s about time," Kim said.

"We’re not voting on this for us because, come Oct. 15, after that, it will be a new council, so we are doing this because we are thinking about our future and thinking about having that inclusive and welcoming space," Coun. Trish Mandewo added, while commending city staff for taking action to "change the narrative."

Caulfield said city staff will continue to press the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) to lobby the provincial government to expand personal leave options for elected officials in the province.