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Bring your baby to work - but only if all else fails, Speaker tells MPs

NDP MP Sana Hassainia walks out of the House of Commons with her baby, Skander-Jack, on Feb. 8, 2012.

FRED CHARTRAND/Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press

Bringing a baby to the House should be a last resort for members of Parliament.

In a ruling Thursday, Speaker Andrew Scheer addressed last week's controversy involving NDP MP Sana Hassainia, who felt pressured into leaving her seat in the Commons because she was accompanied by her three-month-old boy, Skander-Jack.

He said MPs can bring their infants into the chamber, but that they should ensure it doesn't cause a disturbance and that it only occurs because of an emergency vote or because of a breakdown in their childcare plans.

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In addition, the Speaker suggested he was unhappy with the fact Ms. Hassainia immediately went to the media after she was approached by a page in the House and felt she was being asked to leave. Mr. Scheer said it would be helpful to everyone "if members approached me directly to discuss any concerns they may have."

He also defended his actions last week, stating that Ms. Hassainia and her baby were "creating a disturbance" in the House ahead of a vote, as other MPs took pictures of her.

"It is important to recall that in the case at hand several members were flouting the rules by taking photographs in the chamber, and it was this disturbance to which the chair's attention was drawn," he said.

Mr. Scheer said MPs should find ways to ensure that their children are cared for ahead of planned votes, which are usually scheduled well in advance.

"The chair appreciates that plans sometimes fail," Mr. Scheer said. "In such cases, provided there is no other type of disruption or disturbance, the Speaker's attention will likely not be drawn to the situation and the work of the House can proceed as usual."

Mr. Scheer, who has four children under the age of 7, said that the House must be flexible in dealing with the matter of children.

"I must confess that I am particularly sympathetic to the challenges faced by all elected officials who strive to find a balance between the demands of their work and the needs of their families," he said.

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Mr. Scheer has asked his staff to ensure that there are enough change tables in the House, while calling on a parliamentary committee to review the standing orders that apply to the matter.

"In the meantime, the chair will continue to be governed by the approach taken in the past by previous Speakers, always mindful of my obligation to preserve order and decorum so that the House may conduct its business without disruption, knowing that I can count on the cooperation of all members in this regard," Mr. Scheer said.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

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