Prepare for remote voting in House of Commons this fall: committee

Prepare for remote voting in House of Commons this fall: committee

OTTAWA — The parliamentary committee that oversees the way the House of Commons works says the chamber should spend the summer getting ready for MPs to participate and vote from outside Ottawa.

The group said in a report released Tuesday that COVID-19 will likely make it too dangerous for MPs to gather in large numbers when the Commons is due to resume its regular business in September, especially for those who need to travel long distances.

The committee wants to take the videoconferencing system MPs have been using for meetings for the last several months and add a secure voting system, so more normal business can go on, with some MPs physically in Parliament and some not.

Since the House of Commons broke up as the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada in March, it’s used two main meeting formats.

One is a special COVID-19 committee that meets in the Commons chamber, where any MP can participate including by videoconference; that committee can debate but it can’t pass legislation.

The other is occasional sittings of the House of Commons with very limited numbers of MPs. In those meetings, including two of them this week, MPs can pass legislation but only those in the chamber can participate.

The committee’s recommendation is essentially to fuse them, so MPs can participate virtually and hold meaningful votes.

Creating that voting mechanism will mean “an iterative approach including multiple rounds of testing, demonstrations and adaptations,” so that by the time September sittings come around, MPs are comfortable with the technology and everyone is confident it’s safe to use.

The committee also says every MP and anyone else participating must be equipped with high-quality audio gear so they can be heard properly.

And the Commons will need to invest in its interpretation service because the people who do that work have been burning out trying to translate fast-talking MPs with poor internet connections.

As for those poor internet connections, which are most likely to plague MPs representing more remote rural areas, the committee says the House of Commons should do what’s necessary to fix them.

The Conservatives dissented from the committee’s recommendations, saying it’s better for a limited number of MPs to gather in Ottawa in person and avoid travelling while COVID-19 remains a worry.

“Of course, we recognize the COVID-19 pandemic requires us to change our routines,” their contrary report reads. ”However, the underlying currents, during this study, heading toward a remote voting app made us question, again, if ‘a crisis was not being left to go to waste.’”

They say the House of Commons would work better under an agreement to have a maximum of 86 MPs in the chamber at once, which is as many as could fit while keeping two-metre distances among them.

If their fellow MPs do adopt the committee’s recommendations, the Tories say they should expire automatically at the end of December unless there’s a vote to renew them.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Politics

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

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Ponoka FCSS’ Empty Bowls sells out

For the first time ever, Ponoka Family and Community Support Services’ (FCSS’s)… Continue reading

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

JJ Collett Natural Area Foundation held its AGM on Oct. 19 at the Ponoka Legion. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
De-listing Alberta parks creates ‘risk’ for coal mining: CPAWS

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society speaks at JJ Collett AGM

ACC President and CEO Ken Kobly spoke to Ponoka Chamber of Commerce members over Zoom on Oct. 20. (Image: screenshot)
Alberta chambers are ‘411’ to members, government: ACC president

Changes to government supports, second wave and snap election

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

Marissa Cunnington. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
NARCHC year end horse show photos and results

The Northern Alberta Reined Cow Horse Club (NARCHC) held its futurity, derby… Continue reading

From l-r., first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden on stage at the conclusion of the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Trump, Biden fight over the raging virus, climate and race

Republican president declared the virus, which killed more than 1,000 Americans on Thursday alone, will “go away.”

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

RCMP. (Black Press File Photo)
Calgary man dies in two-vehicle collision near Sylvan Lake

A semi truck collided with a SUV just east of Hwy. 781 on Hwy 11.

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Most Read