Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

In a crowded lower house, MPs voted on Thursday to extend a hybrid format of parliament until mid-2022 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The proposal to return to the hybrid model, which means MPs can participate in ballots or debates virtually from home, if they so choose, went from 180 to 140. The Left joined forces with the NDP to get the vote through after two days of debate, while Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois opposed it.

The hybrid model begins on Friday and is set to last until at least the end of June, when the house breaks down this summer. There are no restrictions on how many MPs can sit in the House if they so choose.

The hybrid model was first adopted a year ago, but the agreement to allow that format expired in June last year.

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In the debate since then over whether the format should be reintroduced, the Conservatives have been vocal against it.

Read more:

Tories, which opposes a hybrid parliamentary proposal, says it weakens government control

Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole said Thursday that the model would shut down the debate and limit “democratic accountability.”

“To hold government accountable, as Canadians expect, we must be here in Ottawa and work for the Canadians,” he said. “A virtual parliament will restrict the voice of Canadians.”

O’Toole also pointed to the crowded events that Liberals held during the recent elections and summits they have attended with “thousands of people”, such as COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.

“[It is] hypocrisy of the highest order. “

Conservatives also pointed out that during the last session of Parliament, there was often only one Liberal MP in the Chamber, while the rest practically attended.

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Others, however, argue that a virtual parliament will allow proper compliance with COVID-19 security protocols.

Green Party MP Elizabeth May said on Wednesday that she does not feel safe in the House of Commons when six feet away can not be achieved given that the desks are close together.

Click to play video: 'Parties sparring over finances, COVID-19 mandates in the first question period after the election'

Parties spar over economy, COVID-19 mandates in the first question period after the election

Parties spar over economy, COVID-19 mandates in the first question period after the election

The NDP has also noted that the format allows those who need to isolate themselves due to contact with a COVID-19 case to still participate in the Commons procedure, and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said the format can allow MPs to take of their children away from home while still working.

New Democrat MP Laurel Collins took part in the debate on Thursday with her seven-month-old daughter in her arms, bringing home the challenges of becoming a parent and personally attending parliament.

“Women deserve the choice to participate,” she said. “[This chamber] was built by men, for men, and we have a long way to go if we want equal access. ”

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Parliament has reappeared since Monday, when all but one of Canada’s 338 MPs attended in person, as there was no agreement on a return to virtual meetings.

Read more:

MPs return to the House of Commons for the first time in five months

The one MP who has been missing is the conservative Richard Lehoux, who was given COVID-19 two days after a personal withdrawal by all parties.

It was pointed out in Thursday’s debate that a hybrid house would allow Lehoux to participate, even while in self-isolation.

While the Conservatives oppose participating virtually in parliament, it is still unclear how many of its MPs can participate in person, given the new rule that they must be fully vaccinated.

O’Toole has said that all 119 Conservative MPs are either fully vaccinated or have a medical exemption, although a count by The Canadian Press found that 83 have publicly said they have received both shots, and two have said they need the exception.

Government House leader Mark Holland welcomed the return of a hybrid model after the vote, saying it would allow Lehoux and anyone else who falls ill to continue working remotely.

He said he hopes unvaccinated conservatives choose to work from home and not “create a public health problem.”

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– with files from The Canadian Press and Rachel Gilmore

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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