Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez rises to ask for an extension of the sitting day in the House of Commons Parliament in the House of Commons Tuesday March 24, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

House of Commons seeking virtual sittings in ongoing COVID-19 shutdown

The House recessed March 13 for five weeks to ensure MPs were doing their part to slow travel

Canada’s House of Commons is looking at taking its debates virtual as COVID-19 is expected to prevent a return as planned on April 20.

The House recessed March 13 for five weeks to ensure MPs were doing their part to slow travel and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The all-party agreement to temporarily rise included allowances for smaller numbers of MPs to convene when emergency legislation needed passing.

That happened March 24 and 25 to pass the government’s massive aid package, and another emergency day is expected within the next week to make additions to the aid package.

But with most provinces extending stay-at-home orders and requests well into May, the House of Commons is now looking to have virtual sittings.

Liberal House Leader Pablo Rodriguez Sunday wrote to House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota asking for help to make it happen.

Opposition parties all appeared behind the idea, with Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois and NDP MPs all saying they will support the initiative.

House leaders will be negotiating the plan, but Rodriguez said he also needs “advice and assistance” from the House of Commons administrative staff if virtual sittings are to become a reality. It will require “substantial revisions” to the House of Commons rules.

“All Canadians are doing their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and we are asking them to take extraordinary measures to keep everyone safe,” Rodriguez wrote in his letter to Rota.

“This includes working from home, and only leaving their homes for essential reasons. It is only appropriate that Members of Parliament practise these same measures, and adapt the way that we conduct our business during the time that the House cannot meet on a regular and normal basis.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said last week he wanted more accountability from the government, including more opportunities for opposition parties to ask questions of the government.

His finance critic, Pierre Poilievre, said Sunday the party is very willing to work with the government to find ways for more committees to be held via phone or video conferencing, or for all of Parliament to meet virtually.

“Conservatives will be fully supportive of any virtual return of Parliament,” he said.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said in his own letter to Rota, that the Bloc has been asking for this kind of initiative for several days and supports it. However Blanchet indicated he thinks any votes should still be held in person, with the smaller number of MPs as was already negotiated in the earlier agreement.

NDP House Leader Peter Julian said his party is also supportive of the plan.

“People across the country are being left behind by decisions the government is making and Canadians deserve a way to make sure they are being held accountable,” Julian said.

READ MORE: Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week

READ MORE: Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusParliament

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Not business as usual as Nelson slowly reopens

Local owners talk about the pandemic has changed how they operate

City of Nelson takes over farmers’ markets from EcoSociety

Markets start June 13 and will be run by the Nelson and District Youth Centre

School District announces Rick Hansen Foundation difference-maker award winners

Creston student Alexis Folk and Nelson teacher Chris Mieske recognized by the Rick Hansen Foundation

Nelson offers financing for homeowners to purchase electric bikes

Loan payments will be applied to hydro bills as part of the EcoSave home retrofit program

Pay guarantee removed for some Kootenay on-call paramedics

Guarantee phased out as BCEHS introduces a new “scheduled on call” model

VIDEO: B.C. dentist gets grand welcome home after two months in hospital fighting COVID-19

Michael Chow was given a surprise send off by hospital staff and ‘welcome home’ from neighbours

Help the Nelson Star continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Black Press is now accepting donations to keep its papers operating

‘Like finding a needle in a haystack’: Ancient arrowhead discovered near Williams Lake

The artifact is believed to be from the Nesikip period between 7,500 BP to 6,000 BP

Friends, family mourn Salt Spring Island woman killed in suspected murder-suicide

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched for Jennifer Quesnel’s three sons

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Indigenous chief alleges RCMP beat him during arrest that began over expired licence plate

Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam calling for independent investigation

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Most Read