Conservative and Bloc Québécois MPs push back against restoration of hybrid Parliament

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears virtually at Question Hour during a meeting of the House of Commons in Ottawa on February 3. The Liberals and the NDP have said they support a hybrid parliament.Adrian Wilde/The Canadian Press

Conservative and bloc Québécois lawmakers pushed back on Wednesday against a Liberal attempt to reinstate hybrid meetings in the House of Commons, warning that allowing ministers to appear via video link undermines accountability.

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But opposition House Leader Gerard Deltel said he doubted conservatives would be able to lead the liberals’ plan, given the prospect of NDP support for the measure.

“At the end of the day, liberals will formulate their proposal with the help of their friends, the NDP, who want a hybrid parliament,” he told reporters in the House of Commons.

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Lawmakers debated a government motion proposing a return to the hybrid format. The resolution said that members may participate in the proceedings of the House in person or by video conference, provided they do so in accordance with the COVID-19 vaccination requirements. It also says medical exemptions for vaccinations follow the Ontario guidelines as well as the guidelines of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

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The Liberals and the NDP have said they support a hybrid parliament because it helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 and allows lawmakers to run from their homes or offices who are ill or whose family members are involved. Members are sick.

During Wednesday’s debate, Government House leader Mark Holland said it was not acceptable that lawmakers should choose between their health and representing their constituents, adding that the pandemic continues to claim lives. He also said that it puts members in a position to question whether they should come to the Commons when they are feeling under the weather.

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“We have an old, outdated and, dare I say, dangerous view of what is to be on the other side,” Mr Holland said in reference to the Conservatives. “Members, with these hybrid provisions in this motion, can represent their constituents. They can hold the government accountable. They can vote. They can debate. They can participate in the committee. And they can Can do all this safely.”

“There are a lot of debates that we have here where the science and the evidence tend to leave some gray areas in the middle,” he said. “There is no gray area of ​​science here. There is no area of ​​ambiguity in terms of the action needed to protect not only the members, but the people who work here. I am sad that this has been debated.”

NDP Peter Julian said it is important to continue to use the hybrid tool for all the reasons Mr Hollande referred to.

But he said the difficulty is that the government is often represented in the House of Commons by the MP for Kingston and the islands, Mark Geretson, “basically alone.”

“It is not acceptable to have accountability and transparency,” said Mr Julian. “So can the Government House leader be very clear and on record that ministers will be present in this House as we move into a hybrid parliament, that they will answer questions and we will no longer have ministers in this building. Zoom ? That he will be in the House and answer the questions of the Members of Parliament.”

In response, Mr Holland said that in the current COVID-19 circumstances, the government has “every intention” to ensure there is “full attendance from the cabinet” and to ensure that ministers take questions. it is important for He said the opposition should get a chance to challenge the government.

Prior to the debate, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a hybrid parliament is a necessity, noting that a Conservative MP tested positive for COVID-19, and yet, able to contribute to parliamentary business. Should be. He was referring to Quebec MP Richard Lehoux, who, although fully vaccinated, is at home after being diagnosed with the virus on Saturday, two days after attending an in-person Conservative caucus retreat.

“It’s a way to make sure lawmakers can speak up for their citizens,” Trudeau said, referring to the hybrid option.

Conservative deputy leader Candice Bergen told reporters that her caucus had previously supported a hybrid parliament. pandemic, but Canadians now want lawmakers to get back to work in person.

“I don’t think liberals are doing this because they are afraid of COVID. They are afraid of accountability,” she told the media. “They are afraid of stereotypical questions.”

The Manitoba lawmaker said liberals have used the hybrid option to avoid the scrutiny that actually comes from being in the House of Commons. Ms Bergen said most Canadians do not have hybrid options.

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