In November, Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary of St. John’s put forward a suggestion for free after hours daycare for public meetings.
What seemed like a simple and very cheap request for accessible public meetings, turned into an uproar. The public did not like the idea of paying for the council’s day care needs, and those in favour of the vote saw it as an opportunity for the public, not themselves.
With such a controversial issue, will it become a consideration in the future?
“That’s dead in the water now. There was a lot of controversy from a lot of men and women too because they said they weren’t offered that opportunity. I went to bat on it and it didn’t get the vote,” responded Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary.
The concern for childcare is mainly the after hours accessibility. For those on council who meet after hours, or for those who would like to be a part of the meeting, it’s difficult to find available day care coverage.
“It sparked a lot of conversation. This is a child minding for nighttime public events and for the public to partake in the democratic process. I was astounded by the kick back,” said the Deputy Mayor.
O’Leary said it is not an issue she will revisit, as clearly it was not well accepted by the public or some council members and she would like to move forward with other platforms and activities.
The question has to be asked, if public after-hours meetings do not have accessible child care options, who is it limiting?
Are women less likely to run for office, knowing that commitments in the evenings have no child minding opportunities? Are women less likely to participate in open democratic discussion because they cannot find coverage for their children at that time?
Are parents who already paying for childcare, unlikely to continue more payment to a babysitter for a public counsel meeting?
Perhaps low payment childcare should be considered or offered or perhaps the option to televise certain public meetings. As of right now, media is unable to report on certain aspects of public meetings, so where and how do we get that information as a public citizen?
Until then O’Leary is moving forward and recognizing where her energy should be placed in the meantime, with higher hopes of focusing on other projects and setting on seed for them to be pushed forward.
“I’m picking my battles. I won’t be going back to that issue. I never thought it would be that contentious and I don’t think people were ready for that kind of change,” said O’Leary.