People who serve on the Regional District of Central Kootenay board are now eligible to take six months of paid parental leave.
Chair Aimee Watson says the move is aimed at encouraging younger people to run for office.
“We need young people with the time and energy to commit to an ever-growing position,” she says.
“I had a two-year old when I was first elected and I essentially used a credit card. That’s how you survive when you’re committed to work. This encourages more young people and families to consider the work and put the time in that’s necessary to do the job.”
Watson says although at one time being a rural director may have a part-time job, which attracted retirees, now it is “definitely” a full-time position.
However, while they receive stipends, regional directors are not eligible for provincial or federal benefits. Providing parental leave removes one deterrent from seeking the job, she says.
Another issue remains, though. While a municipal director who takes leave to raise a family would be replaced by another member of their council, a rural director would be replaced by their alternate, an appointed position.
Watson says her stipend covers things like meeting with constituents and attending community meetings, but alternates are only paid for attending board and committee meetings, and don’t receive the director’s stipend in their absence.
“You have to figure out who has the capacity to carry your role for six months,” she says. “While we put one provision in place to support families or young people considering having families, the further component of rural area alternates is kind of a whole other conversation.”
The amendment to the remuneration bylaw adopted by the board also includes reimbursement for child care expenses to allow a director to attend an in-person meeting.