Skip to content
The hybrid format of House of Commons proceedings could last another year

Emilie Bergeron, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The one-year extension of the hybrid format of the House of Commons was approved Thursday by a majority of MPs, just before they begin a summer break from parliamentary work.

The elected members of the New Democratic Party (NDP) gave their approval to a Liberal motion to this effect, in accordance with the intentions they had expressed. This ensured enough votes for adoption despite opposition from the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois.

Once again, Government House Leader Mark Holland argued that the pandemic is not over and that the extension provides predictability on how MPs who will be ill with COVID-19, when parliamentary work will resume this fall, will be able to participate in parliamentary debates and votes.

“With the flexibility, there is the possibility of using the hybrid system or not. In the fall, if the situation improves and people don’t want to use it, it will be a choice for each MP. There is no obligation to use it,” he said.

Mr. Holland also reiterated that the one-year period will allow sufficient time for a parliamentary committee to consider what should or should not remain of this mode of operation, in the longer term.

For the Conservatives and the Bloc, the hybrid formula amounts to reducing accountability.

“Quite frankly, this is a government that does not want an opposition. They want a hearing,” summed up Conservative House Leader John Brassard.

His Bloc counterpart, Alain Therrien, agreed. “A government that hides behind a two-dimensional (format) (makes) it always easier for ministers to hide their incompetence behind screens than to do it in person,” he said.

Holland said he’s committed to ministers being present in the House to speak during Question Period unless they have COVID-19 or a concerning new variant has arisen. changed the situation. This promise is not included in the text of the motion adopted Thursday.

In the eyes of Mr. Therrien, virtual participation should be “exceptional” and should only be authorized when a deputy is himself infected or is a contact case.

“But how do you explain (…) that there are several deputies whom we have hardly seen for two years? What is (they had) Eternal COVID? They rolled around in a “turtle” pool of COVID? “Questioned aloud Mr. Therrien.

Both the Bloc Québécois and the official opposition were of the opinion that there was no urgency to decide on the question of the hybrid format and that it would have been wiser to decide in the fall.

“The reasonable and practical solutions that I offered were to look in August or September and (see if) there is (indeed) a variant coming from the southern hemisphere that the House Leader of the Government and his NDP partner suggest who will be there,” said Mr. Brassard.

For the NDP parliamentary leader, Peter Julian, it is clear that the population would lose without the hybrid Parliament since he believes that the people represented by a sick MP “would lose their voice and their vote”.