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

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

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

A power outage Thursday night left nearly 3,000 homes in Clinton and the 70 Mile areas in the dark. (Katie McCullough photo).
Updated: Clinton, 70 Mile left in the dark after vehicle crashes into transmission pole

BC Hydro still working to restore power to 330 homes in 70 Mile House

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
115 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths in Interior Health

There are now a total of 4,970 cases in the region

Community consultation is now open regarding disposal of the former Ashcroft Elementary property, which since 2015 has operated as the Ashcroft HUB. (Photo credit: Vicci Weller)
Feedback now sought regarding disposal of Ashcroft Elementary

Residents of the region can have their say about the future of the former AES property

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Most Read