OTTAWA – Liberal House leader Mark Holland says the government plans to allow members of Parliament to appear virtually for another year.
He made the announcement Monday after speaking with House leaders from opposition parties.
Rules allowing MPs to appear virtually in the House of Commons and to vote using an app on their phones were introduced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when public health officials urged people to work from home.
Since then, millions of Canadians have been returning to work in different formats.
Holland says the government will be moving forward with a motion to extend the hybrid virtual Parliament for an additional year.
He says the flexibility is still needed as last week five members, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, had COVID-19 and couldn’t appear in person.
Holland says he’s sympathetic to calls from opposition benches to have MPs attend the House of Commons in person and is committed to having government members physically show up to provide answers during question period, barring illness or the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant that is cause for concern.
Whether that will satisfy the Conservatives remains to be seen. They were adamant MPs should be in their seats except for circumstances like being sick or needing to attend events like a funeral.
Tory House leader John Brassard plans to address the plan to extend virtual Parliament at a press conference Monday afternoon.
Holland said the plan includes a request for a parliamentary committee to study MPs’ use of the virtual option and the voting app.
Monday marks the first day in months that MPs can enter buildings on the Parliament precinct regardless of their vaccination status.
It was announced last week that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate would be suspended for the area, following a government decision to lift a mandate covering federally regulated sectors like air travel and its own civil service.
One MP who welcomed that news was rural Saskatchewan MP Cathay Wagantall.
She refused to disclose her vaccination status and has been unable to take her seat in the House since the rule took effect last November.
“I’m looking forward to being in my seat on Monday, if all the details can come together to enable me to be there, “ she said in a statement last Friday.
“No longer being denied my right to represent my constituents in the House of a Commons is a welcomed result and a good use of a unanimous consent motion.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 20, 2022.
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