Tories want Parliament declared ‘essential service,’ regular House sittings

‘This is about whether or not a country like Canada can have a functional Parliament during a crisis’

Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer called Friday for Parliament to be declared an essential service so a reduced number of MPs can resume their House of Commons duties amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The Conservatives are proposing a motion to do that because Scheer said the daily briefings by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from his home are not good enough to hold the government accountable.

MPs need to be able to ask questions on behalf of their constituents across the country, Scheer said.

The Liberals, he said, have announced hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending to mitigate the damage caused by the pandemic-related shutdown, but have provided no formal financial update. Canadians need to know how the government is spending their money, he added.

“The government should not be allowed to hide the information from Canadians or to pick and choose which questions they want to answer and when,” said Scheer.

“This is not a partisan issue. This is about whether or not a country like Canada can have a functional Parliament during a crisis.”

Scheer proposed that 50 MPs should be allowed in the House for “normal” sittings, starting Monday, to conform to public health requirements on physical distancing. He said 18 of them should be Conservatives, proportionate to his party’s standings in the full 338-member chamber.

He said the number of support staff in the West Block of Parliament Hill could be reduced as well. Scheer also said he wears a mask while on the Hill, but he took it off for his Friday press conference. Scheer said the party whips can decide how many MPs can safely meet to debate and vote on legislation while respecting physical distancing.

He said all Commons committees need to resume regular hearings via video as part of a plan to restore a “normal parliamentary business cycle.”

Currently, the Commons has turned into a special COVID-19 committee, meeting three times a week, twice virtually and once in person.

Trudeau said he wants to see a functioning Parliament, and is open to a “hybrid” model where some MPs could participate via videoconferencing. He said the parties are negotiating a way forward.

“We want what Canadians want, to make sure that there is a functioning Parliament that will ensure that questions and preoccupations from across the country get heard,” Trudeau said Friday.

MPs could debate non-pandemic matters, but he said that would remain the government’s focus.

“All parties are united in wanting to ensure that we continue — as we have been — to demonstrate that our democracy is strong, and our institutions are functioning not just despite the crisis but because of the crisis.”

The consistent thread among opposition parties is a demand for more face time with the government — even if masked —as they negotiate Parliament’s return.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusHouse of Commons

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dead salmon fry found in Terrace stream prompts response from City

Public Works crews are marking storm drains to raise awareness of salmon habitat vulnerability

RCMP bust five impaired drivers in one day in Terrace and Kitimat

Police were doing road checks as part of distracted driving, seatbelt enforcement campaign

Horgan makes campaign stop in Terrace and Kitimat

BC NDP leader met with local First Nations leaders, reiterated campaign promises

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

Winter tires, chains now mandatory along most B.C. highways

Drivers without the proper winter tires – which must also be in good condition – can be fined $109

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

First Nations Health Authority chief medical officer concerned with rising COVID-19 cases

“There’s still so much we don’t know and we’re learning everyday about this particular virus.”

FINLAYSON: COVID-related job losses concentrated in urban areas… especially Metro Vancouver

The biggest job losses, in absolute terms, have been in Metro Vancouver

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

6 puppies rescued in mass seizure on Princeton farm die from illness: BC SPCA

Of the 97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized, most of the puppies suffered from parvo

Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

Family and Indigenous organizations push for thorough investigation

U.S. boater fined $1,000 for violation of Quarantine Act

49-year-old man entered Canada to visit girlfriend in Surrey

Most Read