Edmonton city councillor running for re-election as a new mom

·3 min read
Coun. Sarah Hamilton posted on social media after she had a baby boy on Aug. 26 at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.  (Sarah Hamilton/Twitter - image credit)
Coun. Sarah Hamilton posted on social media after she had a baby boy on Aug. 26 at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. (Sarah Hamilton/Twitter - image credit)

Edmonton city councillor Sarah Hamilton plans to balance parenthood and politics this fall heading into the Oct. 18 municipal election with a new baby.

On Aug. 26, Hamilton gave birth to a boy — August Friedrich Hamilton Hirschmann — less than two months before the civic election.

Hamilton said her partner and family have been very supportive and encouraged her to make the move.

"It will be a challenge but it's a challenge for every family in every context," they told her.

"And it's really important if you love the work that you're doing and you feel strongly about it, that you continue to do that work and you get out there and that you have our support."

This is Hamilton's first term on city council and in the fall, she'll seek re-election in Ward Sipiwiyiniwak, the boundaries of which are mostly from the outgoing Ward 5 in the southwest part of Edmonton.

Four registered candidates are running against Hamilton: Giselle General, Scott Hayes, Daniel Heikkinen and Derek Hlady.

As a councillor, Hamilton has access to parental leave — up to 10 weeks paid leave. The parental leave option has been available since 2018, but Coun. Bev Esslinger has long supported the idea.

"We didn't want it to be a barrier," Esslinger said of becoming a parent. Years ago, it was a very different process.

"You would have to go to council and ask permission to be off, it seemed silly to have to ask if you could have a baby," Esslinger said.

When a councillor is on leave, constituents won't be left in the dark, she said.

Other councillors take over some of the duties of that ward. There's also office support and councillors may still attend some meetings.

Coun. Jon Dziadyk was the first councillor who was eligible to take leave, when he and his wife had a daughter in 2019.

Dziadyk didn't take leave at the time.

"I was newly elected and wanted to continue to serve my constituents to the best of my ability," Dziadyk said in an email statement Tuesday.

He said he scaled back on official events after the first few months of becoming a new father and concentrated on debates in council chambers.

Hamilton said she's heard concerns from some constituents that having a baby may interfere in her duties.

She's determined that it won't, and believes her situation highlights the need for more affordable, flexible child-care options for parents in Edmonton and around Canada.

Having a newborn hasn't changed her priorities for Edmonton, she said, but she's seeing the future from a different lens.

"For me, it puts that 20-year, 30-year timeline on things in a much finer way," Hamilton said. "When we're talking about climate resiliency, what does that look like for the next generation?"

She said building a strong economy and jobs will look different in the next few decades.

Hamilton said she'll bring August on the campaign trail door-knocking, if he's willing.

@natashariebe

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