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Parliament must be given more time to study COVID-19 response: Scheer

A modified House of Commons is currently in session with MPs meeting three times a week

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says as provinces begin to ease up on COVID-19 restrictions, Parliament should also return to a more normal routine.

A modified House of Commons is currently in session with MPs meeting three times a week, twice virtually and once in person, in the form of a special COVID-19 committee.

But to pass legislation, the House of Commons must be properly recalled, as it now has been multiple times for response bills.

In each case, the bill was passed in a matter of hours and Scheer said that process is no longer sufficient.

Scheer pointed out that the opposition parties have repeatedly shown that their oversight has provided better programs for Canadians. They have, in the past, forced the government to expand eligibility for benefit programs, for example.

If the House were meeting regularly — the Tories had proposed in-person sessions three or four times a week — then legislation could be given proper study, Scheer said.

“Instead of being transparent, the Liberals continue to operate behind the scenes, forcing opposition parties to agree to artificial government timelines or risk being accused of blocking support payments,” he said.

“Those days are over.”

In addition to the special COVID-19 committee, a variety of House of Commons committees are meeting regularly to debate specific elements around the management of the pandemic and the government response.

Among them is a committee charged with exploring the transition to a fully virtual Parliament and what that will take.

The committee on procedure and House affairs is supposed to report back with ideas for how to achieve that by the middle of this month.