Coronavirus: Conservatives say Virtual Commons procedures allow government to dodge scrutiny | Today Headlines
Coronavirus: Conservatives say Virtual Commons procedures allow government to dodge scrutiny
| Latest News Headlines | Fox News
OTTAWA – Conservative MPs today will oppose a government proposal to revert to a hybrid format in the House of Commons, which has allowed MPs to participate virtually in deliberations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Deputy Conservative Leader Candice Bergen said her party feared hybrid sessions “let the government get away with it” and give ministers an excuse not to show up to answer questions in the House of Commons.
Members will debate today whether to return to the hybrid format. The Liberals and the NDP support this decision. They argue it helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 and allows MPs who are sick or have sick family members to participate from their homes or offices.
The Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois both want to fully return to normal in-person meetings.
Bergen argued that the hybrid format is designed to protect the government from “scrutiny and accountability”, not to protect Canadians from the deadly virus.
“The point is, the government got off the hook because it wasn’t here,” she said, adding that she sometimes sat in the House during the last session of Parliament without a single MP or minister. Liberal in the House.
She said the government’s enthusiasm for virtual procedures “has nothing to do with protecting yourself or anyone else from COVID.”
“They are protecting themselves from liability and scrutiny. We have seen it and we believe it is time for it to end,” she said.
The NDP supports the hybrid format because it allows all MPs – including those forced to self-isolate if they come into contact with someone with COVID-19 – to participate in Commons deliberations.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said MPs should consider switching to the hybrid format permanently as it would allow MPs with young children to participate in debates from their homes. This, in turn, would make becoming an MP more attractive to people with family responsibilities, he argued.
But Bergen said voters expected newly elected or re-elected MPs to show up to do their jobs.
“We do not agree that a hybrid parliament is necessary. We do not think so. And we are concerned that the Liberals and the NDP are rushing this through,” she said. .
She said ministers would rather “sit in their desks to escape the answers” than face questions from opposition MPs in the House of Commons.
But Government House Leader Mark Holland said on Wednesday the government is committed to a “full presence” in the House of Commons, regardless of the format.
Holland reiterated his concern that no one knows how many Tory MPs go unvaccinated and appeared to question whether the Tory medical exemptions were valid. He suggested that further validation of their doctors’ notes may be required.
Bergen hit back at Holland’s suggestion, saying it was “very dangerous” for a politician to question the integrity of medical professionals.
“I think it’s unwise in a lot of ways. Mark Holland is not a doctor. My colleague called him a ‘spin doctor,’ she said.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said all 118 of her MPs are now fully vaccinated or have medical exemptions. He declined to say how many have requested a medical exemption.
Conservative Quebec MP Richard Lehoux, who is fully vaccinated, is currently at home after being diagnosed with COVID-19 on Saturday, two days after attending an in-person Conservative caucus retreat.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 24, 2021.
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