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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Village of Salmo has told Cody Puckett and Ashley Nelson that clearing land at this property doesn’t constitute building a property according to a bylaw. Photo: Submitted
Work in progress? Salmo family, village at odds over property construction

Cody Puckett says he’s being evicted from his own land, which the village disputes

Finn Lydon. Photo: Submitted
UPDATE: Winlaw boy reported missing has been found

Finn Lydon was was located last evening

Dr. Albert de Villiers, Chief Medical Health Officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
‘People need to start listening’: IH top doc combats COVID-19 misconceptions

Dr. Albert de Villiers says light at the end of the tunnel will grow in step with people’s adherence to PHO guidance

(File)
One death and 82 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

1,981 total cases, 609 are active and those individuals are on isolation

Youth Climate Corps members April Gariepy, Summer Monkman and Linn Murray at work in West Arm Provincial Park, fall 2020. Photo: Submitted
Youth Climate Corps members April Gariepy, Summer Monkman and Linn Murray at work in West Arm Provincial Park. fall 2020. Photo submitted
VIDEO: Kootenay youth climate group works to protect Nelson’s water supply

Youth Climate Corps members spent five weeks thinning forest in West Arm Park

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week t

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

Richard Reeves examines a painted film strip in his home studio. Photo: Aaron Hemens
PHOTOS: Pandemic inspires creativity for Creston animator Richard Reeves

For more than 30 years, Richard Reeves has been creating abstract animated short-films by drawing and painting images onto strips of film.

Good Samaritan Mountainview Village located at 1540 KLO Road in Kelowna. (Good Samaritan Society)
First long-term care resident dies from COVID-19 in Interior Health

Man in his 80s dies following virus outbreak at Mountainview Village

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read