Coronavirus: Conservatives say virtual Commons procedures allow government to evade surveillance

OTTAWA – Conservative MPs will today oppose the government’s proposal to return to a mixed form in the House of Commons, which already allows MPs to virtually participate in parliamentary proceedings COVID-19 pandemic.

Conservative deputy leader Candice Bergen said her party was concerned the mixed elections “distracted the government” and gave ministers an excuse not to appear to answer questions in the Commons.

MPs will today debate whether to continue with the union form, with both the Liberal Party and the NDP backing the move. They argue it helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 and allows MPs who are sick or have sick family members to join from their home or office.

The Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois both want a complete return to direct normalcy.

Bergen argues that the hybrid format is designed to protect the government from “surveillance and accountability,” not to protect Canadians from the deadly virus.

“The reality is the government hasn’t worked because they’re not here,” she said, adding that she sometimes sat in a room during the last session of Parliament without a Liberal MP or minister in attendance. House of Commons.

She said the Government’s enthusiasm for virtual proceedings “has nothing to do with protecting yourself or anyone else from COVID.”

“They’re protecting themselves from accountability and scrutiny. We’ve seen that and we believe it’s time for it to stop,” she said.

The NDP favors the union 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 proceedings.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said MPs should consider adopting a permanent hybrid format as it would allow MPs with young children to participate in debates at home. He argued that would make being an MP more appealing to those with responsibilities concerned.

However, Mr Bergen said voters expect newly elected or re-elected MPs to show up to do their jobs.

“We don’t agree that a Mixed Parliament is needed. We don’t believe there is. And we are concerned that the Liberal Party and the NDP will only get this done,” she said.

She said ministers preferred “sitting in their offices evading answers” than facing questions from opposition MPs in the House of Commons.

However, House of Commons government leader Mark Holland said on Wednesday the government was committed to a “full presence” in the Commons, whatever the form.

Holland reiterated his concern that no one knew how many Tory MPs were unvaccinated, and appeared to question whether the Tory medical exemption was valid. He suggests that it may be necessary to further validate their doctor’s notes.

Bergen hit back at Holland’s suggestion, saying it was “very dangerous” for a politician to question the integrity of medical professionals.

“I think that’s reckless in many ways. Mark Holland is not a doctor. My colleagues call him a ‘rotary doctor,'” she said.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said all 118 of his MPs are now fully vaccinated or have medical exemptions. He declined to say how many had requested a medical exemption.

Quebec Tory MP Richard Lehoux, who is fully vaccinated, is currently at home after being diagnosed with COVID-19 on Saturday, two days after participating in an in-person Conservative Party caucus.

This Canadian Press report was first published on November 24, 2021.


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