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‘A mistake’: Trudeau says House shouldn’t sit on Monday as negotiations continue

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WATCH: : Trudeau says parliament reopening during COVID-19 outbreak ‘obviously not a good idea’ – Apr 18, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it would “be a mistake” for parliamentarians to sit in the House of Commons on Monday as the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the country.

As it stands, Parliament is set to resume on Monday, meaning up to 338 Members of Parliament would gather in Ottawa.

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“Right now we are in a situation where MPs across the country and their staff are wondering if they’re going to have to get on planes tomorrow and fly to Ottawa,” he said. “Obviously, that is not something that, from a public health standpoint, we should want to see happening.

Public health officials have advised all Canadians to avoid gathering in groups, and have urged against all non-essential travel.

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Canadians are being asked to stay home whenever possible in order to stem the spread of the virus.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Scheer continues call for House to scrutinize Trudeau – Apr 16, 2020

Trudeau said sitting in the House of Commons is “obviously not a good idea.”

“Which is why we’ve proposed measures going forward that we’re discussing with the other parties, and we certainly hope that we’re able to come to an agreement so that we don’t all have to convene in the House of Commons on Monday morning,” he said.

Trudeau said his party has suggested the House of Commons sit “in some fashion” once a week to “permit engagement on accountability and also pass further measures to help Canadians.”

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But, the Conservatives say several meetings a week are needed to hold the government to account.

“In order to ensure that Canadians get the real help they need there must be oversight and accountability,” Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer told a briefing on Friday. “Now more than ever Parliament is an essential service.”

Scheer said the Conservatives have proposed a “reasonable work plan,” that would entail fewer than 50 MPs sitting in the chamber at a time.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau argues for virtual seating of Parliament – Apr 17, 2020

“No government should use a health crisis to shut down democracy or take away hard-won rights and freedoms,” he said. “The questions shouldn’t be why opposition MPs want to keep sitting, it’s why the prime minister doesn’t want to stand in the House and answer questions.”

According to Scheer, several sittings a week would be “ideal.”

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But, not everyone agrees.

READ MORE: Archived: Live updates on coronavirus in Canada

In a tweet on Saturday Elizabeth May, former Green Party Leader and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, said the Greens would not give unanimous consent for calling Parliament together frequently “until Public Health advice says it makes sense.”

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“Giving the Conservatives a spotlight in QP is not a reason to reconvene,” she wrote.

A spokesperson for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement that smaller meetings of Parliament — such as the ones held to pass the emergency COVID-19 aid packages  — combined with some virtual meetings “likely give us a path forward.”

The party said there needs to be a way for opposition members to ask questions of the prime minister and cabinet.

“We will keep working with the other parties to get this done and make sure we can deliver for Canadians while respecting the best advice from public health experts,” the statement said.

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Trudeau told reporters he is “hopeful” that parties will reach an agreement, and “get to a good place.”

What’s more, he said his party is “looking forward” to more virtual parliamentary sittings he said will “allow employees from all around the country, not just from the national capital region, to participate.”

The Senate was also slated to come back on Tuesday, but the office of the Speaker of the upper chamber said on Friday it had decided to extend the current adjournment to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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The Senate will not resume sitting until June 2 at the earliest.

–With files from The Canadian Press

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