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

Organizer, Victoria councillor, VicPD talk about upcoming rally for Black lives

‘It’s a simple ask’: Peace rally for Black lives organizer asks people to listen

PHOTOS: Dozens show up to rebuild vandalized Victoria people-less protest

Chalk messages of support surround the fountain in Centennial Square

George Floyd mural appears on Victoria street

Victoria artist Paul Archer painted the mural outside his shop on Fort Street

Vancouver Island’s current COVID-19 case count officially hits zero

Of the 130 recorded Island Health cases, five people have died, 125 recovered

MISSING: High-risk woman last seen on May 25

Police are asking for the public’s help in locating Jennifer Daughinee-Mendelson

‘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

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

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

More protests are expected through the weekend

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park at large

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

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

B.C. starts to see employment return under COVID-19 rules

Jobless rate for young people still over 20% in May

Most Read