COVID-19 hybrid sittings no excuse to let standards slip, Speakers tell MPs

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Parliamentarians have been advised to wear parliamentary dress, which means a jacket and tie for men, in the new hybrid parliament that begins this week.

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The deputy speaker on Monday directed MPs not to let the standards slip if they are at home and are joining debates through videoconferencing as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Lawmakers are being warned in the Chamber of the House of Commons not to wear “messaging” masks, but to keep them neutral. That message was reiterated by Speaker Anthony Rota when a question was raised by the Conservatives whether it was appropriate for Environment Minister Steven Gilbault to have a bicycle appear in the background of his video.


Parliament to allow virtual meeting after controversial voting

Some lawmakers are wearing masks bearing slogans, including one advertising companies.

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Hybrid Parliament means MPs can choose to participate in debates remotely or participate in person via videoconferencing.

MPs participating in the debate will virtually no longer have to wear masks, but the dress code “remains the same” as in the Chamber of Commons. They have to ensure that no props are visible and that the background on their video screen is neutral, Rota said.

The warning by deputy speaker Chris D’Entremont in the chamber on Friday, participating via teleconference, follows an accident in the previous virtual parliament where a Liberal MP appeared naked on camera. The incident was captured in screenshots by another MP and broadcast around the world.

The member in question, William Amos, was seen standing naked behind a desk between the Quebec and Canadian flags, his private parts disguised as a mobile phone. He apologized for being caught on camera accidentally while changing work clothes after jogging.

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A month later, Amos apologized again after urinating at another parliamentary meeting, “without realizing” that he was on camera. Amos did not run in the most recent general election.

On Friday, the deputy speaker warned lawmakers not to take screen shots, just as they are not allowed to take pictures of each other in the Commons Chamber.

MPs voted last week to expand a hybrid parliament, although the move was opposed by Conservatives and Bloc Québécois, who complained that ministers were rarely present in the House to answer questions in the previous session. .

Bloc Québécois House leader Alain Therien spoke out against expanding the virtual parliament, saying that not only did very few ministers appear in person, but some lawmakers were having breakfast in their basement during the voting. He said some ministers “looked like R2-D2” due to a technical fault.

The deputy speaker reminded the members that “virtual sittings are an extension of the proceedings of the House and their conduct must respect our rules and practices, even if they are participating remotely.”

“As soon as a member joins the virtual meeting and opens his camera, he is considered for all intents and purposes in the House,” he said.

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