O’Toole accuses Liberals of hiding as House of Commons moves to resume hybrid sittings

‘Justin Trudeau has an aversion to accountability. Canadians should be asking 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 affairs of the nation from behind computer screens after the Liberals with help from the NDP moved a return to hybrid sittings through the House of Commons Thursday.


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

The Liberals and the NDP both voted to shut down debate on the motion for a hybrid parliament, which will allow MPs to participate either in the House of Commons or virtually by video-conference. A final vote on the idea was expected to pass late Thursday evening, with the NDP’s support.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole denounced the move arguing that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been able to attend the climate summit in Glasgow and participate in campaign rallies this summer, but is now invoking health concerns.

“Why is the prime minister being such a hypocrite? What are the Liberals afraid of? The answer is obvious, Justin Trudeau has an aversion to accountability,” he said. “Canadians should be asking 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 being subject to scrums with reporters or back and forth exchanges in the House of Commons.

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

The motion doesn’t limit the number of MPs who can physically be in the chamber, and the Conservatives have said all of their MPs will continue to take part in person.

In October, well before the House of Commons resumed sittings, the Board of Internal Economy, a committee of MPs which is responsible for how the house runs, ruled that anyone entering the building would have to be fully vaccinated or have a medical exemption.


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The board’s ruling did not specify what counted as a valid medical exemption, but the motion set to pass on Thursday would limit it to a narrow list proposed by Ontario’s chief medical officer, Dr. Kieran Moore. The list essentially limits an exemption to someone allergic to an ingredient of 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 some of his MPs have not received the shot. He said his party is following the rules that have been set and said earlier this week the Liberals should not be questioning the decisions of House of Commons’ staff.

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


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While the Conservatives are following the rules, they have also challenged them in the House of Commons. The party filed a motion challenging the Board of Internal Economy’s authority to impose a vaccine mandate on all MPs.

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

“Unfortunately, instead of doing the business of the nation, we continue to debate matters that I think Canadians don’t expect us to be,” he said.

During the last parliament, it was not uncommon to have just a handful of Liberal MPs physically present in the chamber with most participating remotely. There were also issues for translators who reported difficulties properly hearing MPs.


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Holland said he wants to reduce numbers so there is enough room for social distancing and so sick MPs can stay home. He committed that Liberal ministers will appear mostly from the chamber.

“It’s our intention with the public health situation being what it is, that we can have the majority of our ministers in person,” he said.

Holland said the difference between climate summits and campaign rallies and the House of Commons is that people who feel unwell or are worried about their health don’t have to attend summits and rallies, but MPs are obliged to be in the House of Commons.

“If we have no hybrid measures, there is an obligation for members to attend regardless of their health circumstance, regardless of if their immunocompromised. That is absolutely unacceptable in a pandemic.”

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