NDP backs hybrid Parliament, says MPs can be ‘vectors’ to COVID-19 spread

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Conservatives say they disagree with the decision of a committee of lawmakers that only fully vaccinated MPs, staff and visitors can enter the House of Commons.

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Their objection represents the first challenge to Tuesday’s decision by the all-party board of the internal economy – the governing body of the Commons – that only people with double vaccinations will be allowed to enter the premises.

The Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois agree that members of parliament should be fully vaccinated in order to take their seats, making it a rule for their candidates to run in the recent federal election.

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Conservative leader Erin O’Toole did not say that while she encourages vaccination, she respects people’s individual health choices.

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In a statement, Conservative whip Blake Richards said the Tories believe a negative result from a rapid COVID-19 test can provide reassurance that a workplace is safe.

Richards is one of two Tory lawmakers who sit on the internal economy’s nine-member board. He said he could not discuss what happened behind closed doors, but his statement suggested that both Conservative lawmakers opposed the measure.

“While we encourage everyone to get vaccinated, we cannot agree to seven lawmakers, meeting in secret, deciding which of the 338 lawmakers elected by the Canadian people represent their constituents. to enter the House of Commons,” he said. Wednesday.

O’Toole, who has been vaccinated, has yet to say how many of its 118 elected members are fully immunized against COVID-19.

Analysis by The Canadian Press shows that at least 79 Tory lawmakers have been vaccinated, with two lawmakers saying they can’t for medical reasons and a third who partly with the intention of booking a second shot. Vaccination is reported.

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Re-elected Conservative MP from Alberta, Rachel Harder, posted a photo of Canada’s Parliament House on Instagram on Wednesday, captioned, “Is freedom?. The ability to hold one’s own beliefs without blame.”

The Cross-Party Board of the Internal Economy is empowered, under the Parliament of Canada Act, to make decisions regarding the administration of the House of Commons, even when Parliament is not sitting.

Heather Bradley, the communications director for the Commons speaker, said the board has “absolute authority” and “a mandate” to make such decisions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday continued consultations with opposition leaders on how the House of Commons should resume work and what the priorities should be once it is back in operation.

He had phone conversations with O’Toole, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Greens parliamentary leader Elizabeth May.

In a readout provided by the Conservatives, O’Toole said during his call to Trudeau to “stop using vaccines as a political wedge tool and to prioritize addressing the issue of vaccine hesitation in Canada.” said.”

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He said he told Trudeau that the Conservatives would put forward ideas in the coming weeks to reduce and address vaccine hesitation.

He asked the prime minister to immediately recall parliament and end the Canada Recovery Benefit, which was set up to help people during COVID-19 on November 20, according to the readout, in which Trudeau said ” Didn’t answer.”

In its own statement about the call, Trudeau’s office said the prime minister stressed the need for all lawmakers in the House of Commons to be fully vaccinated.

Trudeau said he would work with lawmakers from all parties to ensure Canadians and businesses get the support they need in the clear context of emergency COVID-19 benefits.

His office also released a brief readout of his conversation with May, noting that Trudeau stressed that his priorities include tackling climate change, reducing emissions and protecting Canada’s Arctic.

Next week the parties will begin formal talks on the size of the new parliament, and whether MPs will participate in person, or continue with a hybrid format, with some participating virtually.

Conservatives are opposed to a hybrid parliament, and believe that all 338 MPs should attend in person as usual. He has expressed concern over the presence of too few ministers in the House to raise questions.

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But both the Liberals and the NDP are in favor of a hybrid parliament.

NDP House leader Peter Julian said Conservative concerns about ministers not being present in sufficient numbers in the previous parliament were “legitimate”. But he said it could be resolved in talks, with the government’s assurance that the minister would be present for questioning.

He warned that having all 338 lawmakers “crowded in a small room” risks turning lawmakers into “vectors” of spreading COVID-19 across the country.

“With the fourth wave having 338 MPs in the House of Commons, with cases rising in some parts of the country, you can imagine one of the areas where cases are rising in Ottawa and COVID and then other MPs are catching and taking it. It goes back to its end of the country where there is a low transmission rate,” he said.

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“This has always been our concern and that is why we got up on March 13, 2020, as we realized that MPs, given our travels, could be the real carriers for the virus to spread.”

Fully vaccinated people can still contract COVID-19 and potentially spread the virus to others, although at much lower rates than unvaccinated people.

Lindsay Mathiesen, the NDP’s deputy House leader, said a virtual parliament would also make the House more “equitable”, allowing parents of young children who may be too ill to fully participate in proceedings.

But Tory Whip Richards said in a statement: “Canadians deserve a government that is accountable to its constituents and therefore will not support a conservative virtual parliament under any circumstances.”

O’Toole may still be forced to accept hybrid meetings _ allowing lawmakers to attend virtually from their homes or offices _ as the only way to enable their unvaccinated lawmakers to attend. ..

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