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Canada’s four main parties were not able to reach an agreement on how Parliament should be operating amid the coronavirus pandemic. In the House of Commons, some MPs have now taken their seats, reports the National Post.
The Liberals, Bloc Quebecois and NDP came to an agreement on a weekly in-person gathering at the House of Commons, but the Conservatives do not think that was enough.
Following the mid-March decision to adjourn, Parliament is in its regular routine.
Two meetings have been held since, to pass necessary emergency aid legislation. The Liberals, Bloc and NDP agree that voting on subsequent legislation is the only time MPs should physically be in the Commons.
The single weekly sitting was proposed in order to carry out those votes in a quick manner. A House of Commons committee is also looking into ways virtual sittings could be implemented in the future.
On Monday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said discussion and debate in the House of Commons is too important.
He said the Liberals have questions to answer regarding issues such as the state of Canada’s medical-goods stockpile and accountability for the federal aid spending that is costing billions of dollars.
“Conservatives continue to believe that frequent accountability sessions in Parliament get better results for Canadians,” Scheer said.
“The government should have been negotiating over the last few weeks to determine what the optimal number of MPs in the chamber is and what public health requirements are needed to keep Parliament open,” he added.
Jagmeet Singh, the NDP Leader noted that other needs can be dealt with through two virtual sittings per week.
The virtual sittings would also allow people situated far from Ottawa to question the government.
“It’s important to hear voices from parliamentarians across this country,” Singh said.
Singh is one of three NDP MPs who are currently in Ottawa. They say they are willing to stay there for as long as it takes to come to an agreement with the others.
Scheer did not give an exact amount of MPs that would be present from his party.
Yves-François Blanchet, the Bloc Quebecois Leader said that parliament is being held “hostage” by the Conservatives for partisan reasons. He said he’d rather get back to serving Canadians and Quebec.
The Bloc noted that during the next sitting one of their main concerns will be seniors and their needs. The NDP said that one of their main concerns will include students who do not have work for the summer.
Many committees plan to hold virtual meetings, though if there is a need to pass legislation the full body can still be recalled.