Coalition Welcomes Motion to Modernize Legislative Sitting Times

Media Release

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Coalition for Women in Government welcomes motion 32 put forward by Minister Paula Biggar to modernize sitting times in the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island and hopes all parties will support the motion.

The Coalition for Women in Government has long advocated for a change in sitting times for the Legislative Assembly of PEI. “We’re thrilled to see some movement to modernize the legislature,” notes Dawn Wilson, Executive Director of the PEI Coalition for Women in Government. “Changes will better support the participation of women and people of all genders as MLAs.”

Wilson continues “The Coalition first recommended changes to evening sitting times almost ten years ago, after extensive consultation with Island women, MLAs, and experts. The current hours of the Legislature were created to accommodate the passenger train schedule, which ended in 1968,” says Wilson. “The sitting hours, however, have only been slightly tweaked since the days of the train schedule, and we agree that a change is entirely appropriate at this time.”

The PEI Legislature is in the minority among provinces and territories in holding sitting hours past 6:00 p.m., and, in fact, is one of only three jurisdictions that hold sitting hours past 7:00 p.m.

Even today, when men play a more active role in caregiving than in past generations, women continue to shoulder the bulk of responsibility for unpaid caregiving in the home. As a result, evening sitting hours disproportionately create a barrier for women. Removing this barrier will help encourage more women and caregivers of all genders to participate.

“Parliaments across Canada, including that of PEI, were designed at a time when democratic process excluded the voices and experiences of women, when women didn’t have the right to vote or be considered ‘persons’ under the law,” notes Jane Ledwell, a twelve-year Coalition member representing the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women. “It is not surprising, then, that certain aspects of parliamentary institutions fail to meet the needs of women members. Modernizing the system with family-friendly updates can make parliaments more inclusive spaces not only for women, but also for people of all genders and people who live outside of Charlottetown.“

“Having a greater diversity of voices and experience in government is vital to strengthening democracy,” concludes Wilson. “Introducing family-friendly policies and procedures into the legislature is one way to make the job of an MLA more sustainable and attractive to new, diverse candidates.”