COVID-19 crept in and work-from-home became the new normal. With countries now resuming an in-person work environment, Canada is an outlier. Trudeau’s Canada still believes that COVID-19 is far from over.
If you look around the western world, countries have resumed normal work routines across private and public sectors, including in-person parliament proceedings, but the Parliament of Canada still continues to project Trudeau onto large screens.
Countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union parliament have resumed their normal business, but Canada has to always fall out of the box. Additionally, the Canadian Parliament stands apart from other institutions in Canada’s main provinces have resumed holding in-person meetings of their respective legislative assemblies.
Canadian politicians are voting, debating, and listening to their colleagues in a hybrid parliament, with some members attending in-person and others continuing to participate online.
You see, Canada’s hybrid parliament has divided politicians, much the same way that “back to the office” movements have divided Canadians in their workplaces.
Not to mention, in conservative provinces like Alberta, the legislature never fully switched from in-person sittings, with only a brief period of remote voting in May 2021.
MPs from conservative parties are demanding that the Canadian parliament resume in-person proceedings immediately as they believe that conducting business on Zoom may lead to the hampering of accountability.
On the other hand, the liberal caucus has very different views on the issue. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has come up with a proposal for a permanent hybrid Parliament that would encourage more people to get into politics by reducing the onerous travel regime and providing more flexibility.
Again, the liberals are trying to escape the gravity of the situation. Perhaps they are trying to save their face. The liberals want to continue their business on Zoom just to evade those tough and scathing questions and debates. They want to save themselves from the journalists sitting in the foyer. They want to continue online, perhaps because they don’t have answers to tough questions and setbacks.
On an episode of Hub Dialogues this week, Conservative MP Michael Chong said, “It reduces the accountability because they don’t have to be physically present to answer pressing questions. They can often read scripts on their screens without having the physical cut and thrust of debate. “
He added,“In addition, they don’t have to physically attend to the house.” In other words, they don’t have to go through the press gallery that is sitting in the foyer that sits in front of the entrance to the House of Commons. They can avoid the scrutiny of dozens of journalists who are eager to ask them questions about their portfolios.”
Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith stated that while he generally supported a hybrid Parliament, he has found that it is more difficult for lawmakers to establish ties online.
“In politics, my experience has been that it makes it even harder to build cross-party coalitions to get things done, especially with MPs who one hasn’t already built a relationship with before virtual work,” said Erskine-Smith.
He noted that any transition to a hybrid parliament would need to include a “firmer in-person component for connection building.”
The virtual proceedings can only have a negative impact on their ability to hold the government to account because ministers can more easily evade questions with prepared remarks, which are technically not allowed during question period, or skip out on question period without the obvious tell-tale sign of an empty chair.
Clearly, the Liberal government is looking for ways to avoid accountability. The absence of the government’s true spirit is undeniable, and it is evident in the nation’s current state of affairs.