Parties talking about how to proceed with Parliament

Red Deer Advocate

Covid-19 | A16, Words: 364


OTTAWA - Talks that would scrap the scheduled return of Parliament next week are getting underway as all federal parties grapple with how to keep democratic institutions together while Canadians continue to be urged to stay apart.

MPs agreed March 13 to suspend Parliament as public health officials across the country began increasing restrictions on gatherings in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, but the agreement said Parliament would resume Monday, April 20.

As the death toll from COVID-19 rises, and physical distancing measures remain in effect, the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Quebecois all said Tuesday that business as normal can't resume.

"It's pretty clear to all of us Parliament can't be sitting," NDP House leader Peter Julian said.

But the motion in March required all four recognized parties to agree the House must remain adjourned, otherwise it must return, and getting everyone onside will be the meat of talks this week.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Tuesday that while all 338 MPs can't gather, some compromise must be reached to allow regular "accountability sessions" that would give the opposition time to question and debate the government on its decisions, and also allow the minority Liberal government to introduce legislation it needs to deal with the pandemic in something akin to the usual way.

"The goal of this exercise is to get Canada through this crisis as best as possible," Scheer said.

"We want the government to get this right, we want them to make the right decisions at the right time, that's what this exercise is all about."

A spokesman for Pablo Rodriguez, the leader of the government in the House of Commons, said the government believes in the importance of Parliamentary accountability. Rodriguez's office asked the Speaker last week to explore how the House of Commons could hold virtual sittings.

"The Speaker clearly said that his team is working towards the goal of making virtual sittings of the House possible within three weeks from now," Mark Kennedy said in an email.

"We will continue to work collaboratively with other parties on this issue as we hold discussions this week, because that's what Canadians are expecting all of us to do."

2020 The Red Deer Advocate (AB)

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