Last week Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer called for Parliament to be declared an essential service so a reduced number of MPs can resume their House of Commons duties. The situation is a real mixed bag. On the one hand, there’s absolutely a need for Parliament to be functioning and have a voice, especially given the minority status of the government.
Perhaps the most recent prominent example some South Cariboo residents will be thinking of is the increased gun legislation. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chosen path of an order-in-council from cabinet will likely continue to receive more opposition than if it had been passed legislatively. Those in favour of the ban may too have preferred a vote as it would have put MPs on the record. It’s also hard to disagree with Scheer that MPs need to be able to ask questions on behalf of their constituents across the country.
Scheer proposed that 50 MPs should be allowed in the House for “normal sittings” to conform to public health requirements on physical distancing. Reasonable as that may seem, no matter how you do it, it presents a number of problems.
First, with the support staff involved, from translators to camera operators you’d likely go over the limit pretty quickly, meaning it’d be adhering to the distancing requirements mostly in spirit only.
Unless the MPs are staying in Ottawa indefinitely, it’ll see them travelling across the country somewhat regularly neither of which is great. Furthermore, with some places, like the Yukon and New Brunswick, requiring anyone arriving from outside the territory or province to self-isolate for 14 days, and travel options more limited than normal, it seems likely a disproportionate number of MPs would be from Ontario and possibly Quebec.
Consequently, while at face value it might seem much more legitimate, it wouldn’t be surprising to see rural areas and some provinces underrepresented.
When considering the alternatives, you certainly wouldn’t want to have all MPs from across the country travelling to and from Ottawa, congregating with hundreds and potentially turning into the worst spreaders in Canada. You do have to wonder why they can’t follow their regular meeting schedules through video conference: something that everyone from Canadian businesses to regional districts have had to figure out.
However, a video conference clip, probably wouldn’t work nearly as well for political posturing and riling up your base which is hard to imagine not being part of the consideration.