O’Toole accuses Liberals of hiding while House of Commons moves to resume hybrid meetings

‘Justin Trudeau has an aversion to accountability. Canadians should ask why the Liberals can gather in Glasgow but are out of sight in Ottawa, O’Toole said.

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OTTAWA – Parliamentarians will return to debating the nation’s issues behind computer screens after the Liberals, with the help of the NDP, moved a return to hybrid meetings through the House of Commons on Thursday.

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The move will also pose more political problems for the Conservatives, as it sets strict limits on the type of medical exemptions acceptable to MPs who have not been vaccinated.

The Liberals and the NDP both voted to close the debate on the proposal for a hybrid parliament, which would allow MPs to attend either the House of Commons or virtual video conferencing. A final vote on the idea was expected to be adopted late Thursday night with the support of the NDP.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole condemned the move, claiming that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been able to attend the climate summit in Glasgow and attend campaign meetings this summer, but is now raising health concerns.

“Why is the Prime Minister such a hypocrite? What is the Liberal Party afraid of? The answer is obvious, Justin Trudeau has a reluctance to take responsibility, ”he said. “Canadians should ask why the Liberals can gather in Glasgow but are out of sight in Ottawa.”

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O’Toole said his MPs will attend in person regardless, but he expects empty liberal benches with ministers not to be subjected to scrums with journalists or back-and-forth exchanges in the House of Commons.

“A virtual parliament will restrict the voice of Canadians. It will restrict your vote, and we can not sacrifice that in our democracy,” O’Toole said.

The proposal does not limit the number of MPs who can physically be in the Chamber, and the Conservatives have said that all their MPs will continue to attend in person.

In October, long before the House of Commons resumed meetings, the Board of Internal Economy, a committee of lawmakers responsible for running the house, ruled that anyone entering the building should be fully vaccinated or have a medical dispensation.

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The board’s decision did not specify what counts as a valid medical exemption, but the proposal, to be adopted on Thursday, would limit it to a narrow list proposed by Ontario’s chief physician, Dr. Kieran Moore. The list essentially limits an exception to a person who is allergic to an ingredient in the vaccine.

O’Toole has repeatedly refused to reveal how many of his MPs have been vaccinated and how many have medical exemptions, but it is believed that some of his MPs have not received the shot. He said his party follows the rules that have been set and said earlier this week that the Liberals should not question the decisions of the House of Commons staff.

“Conservatives from the beginning of this crisis have always followed the public health guidelines and always tried to work in a safe and effective way,” he said, “We have worked with the civil service and the health authorities here on the hill.”

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While the Conservatives follow the rules, they have also challenged them in the House of Commons. The party submitted a proposal that challenged the Board of Directors of the Internal Economy’s authority to impose a vaccine mandate on all MPs.

The Liberal leader, Mark Holland, said he was disappointed that the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois were forcing the issue instead of working with the government on a solution to what should be an obvious problem.

“Unfortunately, instead of doing the nation’s business, we continue to debate issues that I think Canadians do not expect us to be,” he said.

During the last parliament, it was not uncommon to have only a handful of Left-wing MPs physically present in the hall, where most participated from a distance. There were also problems for translators who reported problems with hearing MPs properly.

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The Netherlands said he wants to reduce the number so that there is enough room for social distancing and so that sick MPs can stay home. He pledged that Liberal ministers will mostly appear from the hall.

“It is our intention with the public health situation, as it is, that we can have the majority of our ministers personally,” he said.

The Netherlands said the difference between climate and campaign summits and the House of Commons is that people who feel uncomfortable or worried about their health do not have to attend summits and rallies, but MPs are required to be in the House of Commons.

“If we do not have any hybrid measures, there is an obligation for members to participate regardless of their health conditions, regardless of whether they are immunocompromised. That is absolutely unacceptable in a pandemic.”

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