National Post (Latest Edition)

First vir­tual vote in the Com­mons a rough go

- Joan Bryden Elections · Politics · Ottawa · Parliament of Canada · British House of Commons · Bloc Quebecois · Microsoft · Metropolitan Police Service · Anthony Rota · Blake Richards · Male

OT­TAWA • Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment have com­pleted their first vir­tual vote in the House of Com­mons, a his­toric oc­ca­sion marked by nu­mer­ous tech­ni­cal glitches, lengthy de­lays and cameo ap­pear­ances by some of their kids and even a fam­ily dog.

The vote was on a Bloc Que­be­cois sub- amend­ment to a Con­ser­va­tive amend­ment de­nounc­ing last week’s throne speech, a rou­tine mat­ter that nor­mally would have taken 15 min­utes.

It was roundly de­feated by a vote of 293-33 — with help from one Bloc MP who ac­ci­den­tally voted against his own party’s mo­tion “due to all the con­fu­sion” over vot­ing by video con­fer­ence.

But it took al­most two hours Mon­day night to ar­rive at that re­sult.

Right off the bat, a sys­tem fail­ure by Mi­crosoft de­layed the vote for about 40 min­utes.

Once it fi­nally got un­der­way, only a few dozen MPS were phys­i­cally present in the Com­mons while the rest joined in from re­mote lo­ca­tions in an ex­cru­ci­at­ingly slow, roll­call, video con­fer­ence vote.

Com­mons Speaker An­thony Rota had to re­peat­edly re­mind MPS to un­mute their mi­cro­phones and to slowly enun­ci­ate the state­ment “I vote for (or against) the mo­tion” to give their com­puter cam­eras time to ac­ti­vate so that the Com­mons ta­ble of­fi­cers record­ing each vote could vis­ually ver­ify who was vot­ing.

He also had to re­mind them to mute their mics as soon as they’d fin­ished vot­ing, not­ing that “any move­ment, like kiss­ing your chil­dren, ac­ti­vates the mic and the cam­era comes on you.”

And in­deed, the wrong MP’S face showed up re­peat­edly on the video screen when some­one was cast­ing a vote. Nu­mer­ous MPS had to try mul­ti­ple times be­fore their votes were prop­erly recorded.

A cou­ple of MPS seemed to be do­ing dou­ble duty mind­ing their kids while vot­ing.

Sev­eral MPS were un­able to con­nect to the video vote at all and had to reg­is­ter their votes sep­a­rately in calls to the Com­mons’ ta­ble of­fi­cers. Even then, Green MP Jenica Atwin’s vote was not recorded, which Rota promised to look into.

When it was fi­nally over, Con­ser­va­tive whip Blake Richards noted that a num­ber of male mem­bers voted with­out wear­ing jack­ets while oth­ers ap­peared to have “props” in view on screen, in vi­o­la­tion of the rules of deco­rum that ap­ply in the House of Com­mons. He also noted that some MPS posted pic­tures on so­cial me­dia of them­selves vot­ing vir­tu­ally for the first time.

Rota re­minded MPS that the back­ground be­hind them while vot­ing vir­tu­ally must be “as neu­tral as pos­si­ble,” with no props or any­thing that “pro­motes a cer­tain ide­ol­ogy.” Male MPS must wear jack­ets and Rota en­cour­aged them to wear ties as well.

A se­cond vir­tual vote Tues­day went off with­out quite as many hitches.

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