Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrives at a caucus meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrives at a caucus meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Opposition blames Liberals as talks around return of Parliament near 11th hour

Both leaders are isolating and will not attend the throne speech, but instead plan to respond to the speech in person next week

Federal opposition parties blamed the Liberal government for failing to properly prepare for the return of Parliament as negotiations around in-person versus virtual sittings went down to the wire Tuesday.

The lack of agreement followed what Conservatives described as a disastrous trial run of a proposed electronic-voting system for members of Parliament, prompting fresh calls from the official Opposition for some form of in-person voting.

That was despite Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and his wife Rebecca having both tested positive for COVID-19, along with Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet. Both leaders are isolating and will not attend the throne speech, but instead plan to respond to the speech in person next week.

“We’ve offered some very positive, and I think realistic, solutions to voting in person whereby safety can be respected,” Conservative deputy leader Candice Bergen said as she and other Tory MPs gathered for a day of talks ahead of the throne speech.

“Schools are resuming, there’s a lot that’s resuming. We have to be able to continue life in this COVID crisis and do it in a safe way and I think that includes parliamentarians.”

The disagreement among the parties was laid bare later in the day when NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called for the House of Commons to adopt a hybrid model, with a limited number of MPs in the chamber and the rest attending online.

The Liberals and NDP used their superior numbers in the spring to adopt such an approach for a special COVID-19 committee, but MPs were leery of doing the same for full House of Commons sittings because of questions around remote voting.

Monday’s test of a proposed electronic voting system saw more than 245 MPs simulate that critical task.

Conservative MP James Bezan described the simulation as “quite the ordeal,” with one vote that should have taken only a few minutes instead taking nearly an hour and a half.

“It was slow — a lot of technical glitches and difficulties,” he told reporters Tuesday. “I’m really concerned about people being able to exercise their right, and their privilege, to vote knowing how intermittent rural broadband is for all of us rural MPs.”

READ MORE: PM Trudeau to deliver national address on COVID-19 pandemic after throne speech

Conservatives appeared ready to throw the idea of electronic voting out the window, but NDP whip Rachel Blaney said the fact there were difficulties should not have been a surprise given that it was the first time the system had been used.

“What we’ve seen in other jurisdictions, in Canada even, is that when the testing starts, it’s a little bit bumpy at the beginning,” she said. “So the NDP is working very aggressively with all the other parties to try to get another round of testing.”

While the NDP and Conservatives were at odds over what approach MPs should take to the return of Parliament, they were united in blaming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the minority Liberal government for not doing more to find a consensus earlier.

“I think Trudeau made a huge blunder by not giving any intention, any time, any strategy to how Parliament would resume its full function, and Canadians deserve that,” said Conservative MP Rachael Harder.

Conservatives later flagged what they described as another snag in the talks: Liberal reluctance to quickly bring back the parliamentary committees that were shut down when Trudeau prorogued Parliament last month. Those include several committees that were studying the WE controversy.

The Liberals can technically wait until November to bring back committees, said Conservative House leader Gerard Deltell. But he described such a delay as “totally unacceptable.”

“The prime minister decided by himself to stop and to kill the committees in the last month,” Deltell said. “So Canadians need and deserve to have a real Parliament working.”

Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez’s office did not immediately response to requests for comment.

Singh said the Liberals should have done more to address a problem first raised when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring.

The NDP leader said he was frustrated and worried about the lack of agreement, given one of the first orders of business for the new session of Parliament will be deciding what to do with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

The $2,000-per-month benefit that millions of Canadians have received during the pandemic is set to end this week, with the government saying it plans to introduce legislation for three new benefits tied to the employment insurance system.

Singh said that if federal parties don’t reach agreement on how Parliament will function, Canadians could suffer.

“It’s not like this date snuck up on us,” Singh said. “We know that we’re just seven days away, a week away, from CERB ending. And that’s for millions of Canadians their only lifeline.”

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Conservative Party of CanadaCoronavirusLiberalsParliament Hill

Just Posted

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

teaser
Dynamic drives and pitiful putting helped even the score

Another Ladies’ Night has come and gone. This season is passing by… Continue reading

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Traffic cop humour

He demands to know what sort of device had been used to measure his speed

(L-r) Cody Lee with six-year-old daughter Paisley, and Joshua Burleigh with his seven-year-old son Noah are extremely thankfull to Heffley Creek residents and First Responders for the help they received after their canoe capsized in rapids on the North Thompson River on Sunday, June 13. (Facebook photo)(L-r) Cody Lee with six-year-old daughter Paisley, and Joshua Burleigh with his seven-year-old son Noah are extremely thankfull to Heffley Creek residents and First Responders for the help they received after their canoe capsized in rapids on the North Thompson River on Sunday, June 13. (Facebook photo)
North Thompson River canoe trip almost ends in disaster

‘Only way I managed to get us to shore was the thought of not letting my boy drown’

A for sale sign is shown in by new homes in Beckwith, Ont., just outside Ottawa, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Thompson-Okanagan population grew despite COVID-19: report

The Chartered Professional Accountants of BC said there are 8,462 new residents in the region

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact they recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Phil McLachlan/(Black Press Media
Man shot at Kamloops shopping centre

The man is believed to be in stable condition

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Green party Leader Annamie Paul speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Paul has survived another day of party strife after a planned ouster shifted course, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power ahead of a likely federal election this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul blasts ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’ party execs who sought ouster

Fallout has continued, with two of the federal council’s members resigning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says re-opening B.C.’s border to the U.S. ‘is not in our best interest’ right now. (B.C. Government photo)
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry (B.C. Government photo)
B.C. records 113 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, four deaths

Vaccination of young people rising quickly, near 75 per cent

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and U.S President Joe Biden shake hands during their meeting at the ‘Villa la Grange’ in Geneva, Switzerland in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)
Biden says meeting with Putin not a ‘kumbaya moment’

But U.S. president asserted Russian leader is interested in improved relations, averting a Cold War

For more than a year, Rene Doyharcabal and a small group of neighbours in Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood have been going out every evening to show support for first responders by honking horns and banging pots and drums. Now, a neighbour has filed a noise complaint. (Langley Advance Times file)
Noise complaint filed against nightly show of support for health care workers in B.C. city

Langley Township contacted group to advise of complaint, but no immediate action is expected

Most Read