Tories want Parliament declared ‘essential service,’ regular House sittings

‘This is about whether or not a country like Canada can have a functional Parliament during a crisis’

Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer called Friday for Parliament to be declared an essential service so a reduced number of MPs can resume their House of Commons duties amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The Conservatives are proposing a motion to do that because Scheer said the daily briefings by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from his home are not good enough to hold the government accountable.

MPs need to be able to ask questions on behalf of their constituents across the country, Scheer said.

The Liberals, he said, have announced hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending to mitigate the damage caused by the pandemic-related shutdown, but have provided no formal financial update. Canadians need to know how the government is spending their money, he added.

“The government should not be allowed to hide the information from Canadians or to pick and choose which questions they want to answer and when,” said Scheer.

“This is not a partisan issue. This is about whether or not a country like Canada can have a functional Parliament during a crisis.”

Scheer proposed that 50 MPs should be allowed in the House for “normal” sittings, starting Monday, to conform to public health requirements on physical distancing. He said 18 of them should be Conservatives, proportionate to his party’s standings in the full 338-member chamber.

He said the number of support staff in the West Block of Parliament Hill could be reduced as well. Scheer also said he wears a mask while on the Hill, but he took it off for his Friday press conference. Scheer said the party whips can decide how many MPs can safely meet to debate and vote on legislation while respecting physical distancing.

He said all Commons committees need to resume regular hearings via video as part of a plan to restore a “normal parliamentary business cycle.”

Currently, the Commons has turned into a special COVID-19 committee, meeting three times a week, twice virtually and once in person.

Trudeau said he wants to see a functioning Parliament, and is open to a “hybrid” model where some MPs could participate via videoconferencing. He said the parties are negotiating a way forward.

“We want what Canadians want, to make sure that there is a functioning Parliament that will ensure that questions and preoccupations from across the country get heard,” Trudeau said Friday.

MPs could debate non-pandemic matters, but he said that would remain the government’s focus.

“All parties are united in wanting to ensure that we continue — as we have been — to demonstrate that our democracy is strong, and our institutions are functioning not just despite the crisis but because of the crisis.”

The consistent thread among opposition parties is a demand for more face time with the government — even if masked —as they negotiate Parliament’s return.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusHouse of Commons

Just Posted

Charges laid after woman’s dog dragged by her stolen vehicle

Dog dragged behind freshly stolen vehicle as it fled downtown Windermere

Motorcyclist killed in collision north of Canal Flats

A 45 year old man from the East Kootenays, died at the scene.

Business can rise this fall in the Columbia Valley

Post-secondary students and snowbirds may bolster fall, our traditional shoulder season.

Healing the big river

Photographer documents the Columbia mile by mile while chasing salmon dreams

Youth invited to virtual economic development summit for training

First Nation, Métis, Inuit and non-Indigenous applicants urged to apply for youth summit

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

Travel restrictions inspiring co-operation in border communities

Small border towns are asking for exemption to travel ban

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

All inquiry recommendations implemented after fatal Port Hardy RCMP shooting: Ministry

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of wrongdoing

Leave your deets when dining: Restaurants taking personal info to trace COVID-19

Health officials say indoor dining presents a higher risk

Raptors kneel for both American and Canadian anthems ahead of tipoff

Majority of players have substituted their names on the backs of their jerseys with racial and social justice messages

Wild’s Mathew Dumba makes anti-racism speech, kneels ahead of Blackhawks vs. Oilers

Matt Dumba, 26, took to center ice to speak on behalf of fellow members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance

Most Read