PM consults opposition on how House of Commons should resume business

PM consults leaders

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will continue today consulting with opposition leaders about how the House of Commons should resume work and what the priorities should be once it is back in operation.

He is scheduled to have separate phone conversations with Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and the parliamentary leader of the Greens, Elizabeth May.

On Tuesday, he exchanged ideas on the resumption of Parliament with Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet.

First on the agenda is whether the House of Commons should resume the hybrid sittings adopted to get through the COVID-19 pandemic or return to normal in-person operations.

That is likely to be a testy topic with O'Toole in the wake of a decision Tuesday by the multi-party board of internal economy to allow only fully vaccinated individuals to have admittance to the House of Commons precinct.

The Liberals, Bloc Quebecois and NDP all support mandatory vaccinations and have said all their MPs have had two shots of approved vaccines; but O'Toole has refused to say whether all his 118 MPs are fully vaccinated and has opposed making it mandatory.

At the same time, the Conservatives have been the most adamant that the Commons should fully return to normal, with only in-person participation in the chamber or at committees.

However, O'Toole may yet be forced to accept hybrid sittings — allowing MPs to participate virtually from their homes or offices — as the only way to enable his unvaccinated MPs to take part in parliamentary proceedings.

The board of internal economy's decision to admit only fully vaccinated individuals into the House of Commons precinct applies to all MPs, their staff, political research office staff, administration employees, journalists, business visitors, contracts and consultants.

The precinct includes not just the Commons chamber but some half dozen parliamentary buildings that house MPs' offices and Commons committee rooms.

Anyone with a medically valid reason for not getting vaccinated will have the option to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test result.

A spokesman for government House leader Pablo Rodriguez said Tuesday the Liberals would prefer to continue hybrid sittings because they allow MPs more flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances of the pandemic across the country.

"We believe the hybrid House of Commons worked well earlier this year. We are supportive of continuing to have hybrid sittings of the House and continuing to make use of technology to ensure that Parliament continues to work well for all Canadians," said Simon Ross.

The NDP also favours hybrid sittings while the Bloc wants to resume normal in-person sittings.

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