MPs leave Ottawa, won’t be back until September

MPs concluded work in the House of Commons for the season and left for their rides Thursday afternoon after Liberal, NDP and Green MPs voted to continue with hybrid sittings until 2023.

“I hope everyone is able to spend time with their family and recharge, spend time with their constituents and the people they love… And we come back rested and recharged to come back in the fall with working together,” Government House Leader Mark Holland said during the break.

“You’ll be glad to know I’ve cleaned up my very cluttered desk, and I’m sure the pages will be happy to hear that too,” said Conservative House leader John Brassard, going on to thank all the staff of the House of Commons and all others who run Parliament’s business, for their work.

While we wish each other well, the postponement of the spring meeting comes after weeks of heightened tensions in the House of Commons, prompted by opposition parties’ continued calls for the federal government to do more in response to record inflation, as well as passport office and airport delays.

Amid newly emerging allegations of political interference in an RCMP investigation and plans for a return of “freedom convoy” protesters to the capital this summer, the months-long hiatus will give all parties some time and space away from the House of Commons, although the hottest political issues will continue to play out.

When MPs return to Ottawa in mid-September, they will do so again in a hybrid structure after a Liberal government vote passed 177 to 144 on Thursday. This will allow MPs to participate in house debates and committee meetings virtually from their home or constituency until June 2023. The House has also set up an application that allows MPs to vote remotely from anywhere in Canada. under this model.

The motion has been the subject of debate in Ottawa since it was presented earlier this week, amid an apparently improving public health situation and despite concerns over accountability and the impact on parliamentary interpreters.

In defending the move, Holland said that while many Canadian workplaces are adjusting to personal work, he believes it is important to continue the hybrid model for MPs to allow those who are ill or have to leave the House of Representatives to get a job. want to participate for any other reason.

Before the pandemic-era sitting structure came into effect, MPs found solutions to have their votes counted through procedural measures such as pairings, but they were unable to participate in the debate without being present in the House.

Conservatives strongly opposed the continuation of the hybrid seating model and wondered why the government has decided to proceed preemptively – for fear of a possible new wave of COVID-19 infections or a new variant – rather than waiting. to see what the pandemic situation is like in September when the fall session begins.

Brassard called the proposal “unwarranted and unnecessary”, and warned of the consequences of continuing with a system – which recently crashed due to a connectivity problem – that was not intended to be a permanent part of parliamentary work.

The Bloc Québécois also voted against holding the virtual meetings, after members of that caucus pointed to the uncertainty of relying on online tools to facilitate participation in Parliament following this week’s “internet service” outage.

Now the Liberals will ask the Committee on Procedure and Home Affairs to study the use of the hybrid model and the voting app to see what worked or didn’t work in the context of potentially preserving it in the long run. However, there is no timeline associated with this study.

If MPs on this committee come forward in less time, or if the pandemic appears to be over within the next year, Holland said the House of Commons is under no obligation to enforce hybrid provisions for the entire year. But now that this motion has been passed, there should be another motion to replace it.

In the meantime, the Netherlands has promised that, with the exception of health conditions, ministers will be present to personally answer questions in the House.

Since late April, MPs have been burning midnight oil and holding regular nighttime sessions in an effort to review more of the government’s legislative agenda over the past few months.

In recent weeks, Liberals have managed to get a handful of their priority bills into the Senate, which is expected to sit next week to study further and pass legislation before they are also adjourned for the summer. So far, the Liberals in this House have passed 13 government bills, with possibly a few more bills to make it onto that list before the senators finish their work.

Still, a number of important bills will have to be passed in September, including firearms legislation, the controversial online streaming law and a national cybersecurity law.

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