To­ries want Par­lia­ment deemed es­sen­tial ser­vice

Ottawa Citizen - - Ottawa Altered - MIKE BLANCHFIEL­D

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 were 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,” Scheer said.

“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 wore a mask while on the Hill, but he took it off for his Fri­day me­dia con­fer­ence.

Scheer said the party whips could de­cide how many MPs could safely meet to de­bate and vote on leg­is­la­tion while re­spect­ing phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing. He said all Com­mons com­mit­tees needed to re­sume reg­u­lar hear­ings via video as part of a plan to re­store a “nor­mal par­lia­men­tary busi­ness cy­cle.”

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

Trudeau said he wanted to see a func­tion­ing Par­lia­ment, and was open to a “hy­brid” model where some MPs could join via video con­fer­enc­ing. He said the par­ties were ne­go­ti­at­ing a way for­ward.

The Cana­dian Press

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