Several weeks ago, I wrote a column with the statement, “a crisis is not the time for partisanship; however, a crisis does not mean that there should not be accountability.” This has been the attitude I have maintained through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Official Opposition has worked hard to ensure that the necessary supports are there for Canadians and Canadian businesses in their time of need. This has included advocating for changes to some of the programs announced, presenting ideas to support key sectors impacted, and asking the tough questions about all aspects of the Government’s response. As a reminder, if you need help or have concerns, please reach out to me through my office.
Over these last couple of weeks, my Conservative colleagues and I have been working to ensure Parliament holds regular meetings in a manner that respects democracy and honours public directives. Democracy cannot take a backseat in a time of crisis; instead, the crisis emphasizes democracy’s importance. Canadians rely on government functioning and parliamentarians working together to get them what they need. The way we make sure that happens is through Parliamentary discourse.
Face to face debate in the House of Commons is one important component to a healthy democracy. It’s how you are assured your representative can speak on your behalf, regardless of the circumstance. It’s very disconcerting to see the Prime Minister avoid accountability and instead replace it with 30 minute, tightly controlled press conferences. It was only with sustained pressure that the Government relented and allowed for partial Parliamentary oversight.
Unfortunately, the Government has limited sitting days of Parliament to one day a week. They did so with the support of the NDP and Bloc parties, as they proudly proclaimed that they would have two additional “virtual accountability sessions.” Yet on April 21st, the Clerk of the House of Commons reported that having 338 MPs present for a virtual meeting of Parliament would be beyond the capacity of the House of Commons. This is something that was shared with the government well before April 21st message, showing again that the Liberals misrepresented the facts while trying to shut down Parliament.
I am not opposed to technology to improve democracy. I have used it for tele-townhalls, social media, and video conferencing to connect with many of you during this crisis. In fact, Parliamentary committees have utilized video conference technology to conduct meetings where they can hear from experts and witnesses. Technology can be a great asset, but the importance of in-person Parliamentary sittings and the accountability it instills is essential.
As many of us deal with the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic, we need to continue to diligently heed the advice of public health officials. At the same time, we need to develop a plan to empower Canadians and businesses to emerge from this crisis. As your MP, I am working tirelessly on both fronts. In conclusion, I encourage the people of Battle River-Crowfoot and all Canadians not to lose hope; together we will make it through.