MPs return to the House of Commons with a busy workload until the holidays


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks after Liberal MP Anthony Rota is re-elected as Speaker of the House of Commons in Ottawa (Courtesy of REUTERS)

Members of Parliament are back at the House of Commons after a five-month break. Despite the federal election two months ago, the current seating chart doesn’t look too different since its last session in June. So much so that, even for the first order of business, the House re-elected Liberal Anthony Rota again as Speaker.

A new round of financial aid for businesses is on the table. MPs have until before the holidays to adjust and approve a bill to help businesses affected by the pandemic. Three other bills are also pending: one to give 10 days of paid sick leave for federal workers, one to ban conversion therapy targeting LGBTQ people and another to criminalize harassment of healthcare workers. Government House leader Mark Holland says he believes they can pass all of them in time before the holiday break.

“It is my expectation that we can work collaboratively in a way that will allow fulsome debate, but fulsome debate in the context of the situation that we’re in, which is that we’ve already had a significant debate on these issues.”

Government House leader Mark Holland speaking to journalists. (Courtesy of Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The Liberals are expected to present at least eight bills in their first 100 days of this mandate, as they promised in their election campaign. However, the House of Commons is planning to meet only 24 days before their 100-day deadline.

It is also worth remembering that the Liberal party doesn’t hold a majority government, which means that the agenda is not so much under their control. They’ll likely need to rely on the New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois to pass legislation.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh already revealed to reporters that New Democrats have been talking with Liberals about speeding up the passage of bills.

Starting Monday, any person entering the House of Commons or Senate building needs to be fully vaccinated or have a valid medical exemption. That has sparked debates about the vaccine mandate and remote participation of MPs.

The vaccination status of Conservative members has been a delicate subject within the party. Until now, no one has confirmed how many members are actually vaccinated against COVID-19. Last weekend, Conservative MP from Quebec Richard Lehoux was also diagnosed with COVID-19, despite being said to be fully vaccinated.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole removing his mask to speak at the podium. (Courtesy of Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Outside, other parties are already questioning if Tories are actually abiding by the rules. Unlike the Conservatives, every other party has confirmed that all of their members are fully vaccinated. According to Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, it isn’t appropriate to “speak about a specific health issue of another MP.”

So far, the House can’t agree on a format to proceed with the sessions. Liberals, New Democrats and Greens are mostly in favour of sticking with an in-person and online hybrid format. Whereas, Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois want to return with fully in-person meetings like before. The matter should be resolved in a future vote.

Later today, Governor-General Mary Simon will deliver the government’s throne speech to officially open the new session of Parliament.

The House of Commons chamber in West Block (Courtesy of Maclean’s)

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