VICTORIA – One of the longest serving members in British Columbia’s legislature was overcome with emotion Thursday as politicians from all parties voted to allow children on the floor of the chamber.
Linda Reid said she choked up recalling her decades of efforts to help women enter politics and ensure they are treated as equals.
Reid, a B.C. Liberal who represents the Metro Vancouver riding of Richmond South Centre, was first elected in 1991.
She said when she was first elected there were no maternity leave provisions and the legislature building was ill-suited for women.
“When I arrived here in 1991, there wasn’t even a washroom on the second floor,” said Reid.
When she asked about locating a women’s washroom near the chamber of the legislature, an official asked: “How long are women going to be elected?”
‘Long enough to go to the bathroom,’ was my response,” said Reid.
She said when her daughter Olivia was born 18 years ago, maternity leave was not available to her and she ended up returning to the legislature five days after the birth.
Reid said she was a member of the Opposition in 2000, but it was former New Democrat Joy MacPhail who would hold her daughter in the hallways when she was summoned to the chamber for debate duties.
“She would sing Solidarity Forever to her,” said Reid.
Reid told the legislature she pushed for maternity leave improvements when her daughter told her pre-school class she lived in a large, castle-like home with a rose garden and hundreds of parking spaces.
“I’ve spent my career supporting women who are seeking public office,” said Reid. “No question, it’s important to me. I believe we can continue some very good work here. Accommodations are necessary in this place and the motion today, I believe, is a gesture of welcome. I want every single person who has a child to be welcome in this place.”
Energy Minister Michelle Mungall said she looks forward to bringing her child into the legislature during debates and other business, including question period.
Mungall, who is expecting a baby later this year, became emotional during all-party introductions of the motion.
The change is a fitting tribute on International Women’s Day to Reid and other members of the legislature who have been advocating for their rights over the years, she said.
“I look forward to bringing the little one into this house,” Mungall said.
B.C. joins Alberta as the only other province that permits children in the chambers while the legislature is in session.