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Coronavirus: Senate to stay closed two more weeks, until June 16

The Senate of Canada building and Senate Chamber are pictured in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019.
The Senate of Canada building and Senate Chamber are pictured in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The Senate is staying closed for two more weeks, not planning to sit again until June 16.

The upper chamber is following the lead of the House of Commons, which doesn’t have a scheduled sitting until the day after that.

READ MORE: Normal House of Commons sittings to be waived another 4 months amid coronavirus

 

 

Senate Speaker George Furey said he consulted all the leaders of the Senate’s various factions and groups before concluding it’s not in the public interest to convene as scheduled next week.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says Parliament will sit four times per week going forward
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says Parliament will sit four times per week going forward

The Conservative leader in the Senate, Don Plett, is dissenting from the consensus.

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“Prime Minister Trudeau always promises Canadians accountability and transparency. In reality, we’re getting theatrics,” he wrote in a statement.

“We cannot forget that our founding fathers intended a bicameral Parliament in order to thwart overreaching powers by the executive branch. As we face this ongoing COVID-19 crisis, we need to be mindful of one of our foremost duties as senators, which is to provide sober second thought, and act as an accountability mechanism for the executive.”

READ MORE: Trudeau open to ‘hybrid’ model for Parliament as parties negotiate return to Commons

Both the Senate and the Commons have committees focused on particular subjects meeting by video and telephone and those will continue.

The House of Commons has all its MPs meeting regularly through a special committee on COVID-19.

In that forum, MPs can question government ministers and debate issues but don’t have the authority to pass laws or use many of the Commons’ other usual privileges.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau wants to ensure MPs can vote remotely
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau wants to ensure MPs can vote remotely

When the Liberals have needed to pass legislation on emergency COVID-19 measures, they’ve called special sittings and brought in bills whose passage has been negotiated in advance with opposition parties, skipping the usual scrutiny by committees.

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Tories in the House have accused the Liberals, and the New Democrats who voted with them to set the limited calendar for the summer, of dodging scrutiny that governments submitted themselves to even during the Second World War.