Parliament’s pandemic politics take centre stage ahead of House sitting

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants fewer limited sittings each week than the Conservative Party of Canada does

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday addressed some of the pressing pandemic-related political and economic matters in the upcoming week, but also reaffirmed the country’s support for people with disabilities and called on children to help parents at home.

Hard-nosed politics is at play in Ottawa the day before Parliament is scheduled to resume.

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No deal has been reached yet between all parties as to how exactly 338 members of the House of Commons can resume their work.

Of course, all 338 members cannot sit together at this time so the party-to-party negotiations focus on how many limited in-person sittings and virtual sittings there will be each week.

Trudeau sniped at the Conservative Party of Canada, claiming its members are “not taking a responsible approach.”

Trudeau is offering one limited in-person sitting and one virtual sitting each week, whereas the Conservatives have proposed three limited in-person sittings “to allow MPs to debate and vote on essential COVID-19 legislation,” according to an open letter published by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

Additionally, “MPs would also have two hours each day to question the prime minister and ministers on all aspects of the government’s response to the pandemic.”

Scheer stated he would be open to one supplementary virtual meeting if the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs recommended such a process.

Trudeau suggested his Liberal party approach is “reasonable” as “we have to acknowledge many cannot attend sessions because they live too far.”

Nationalize supply chain

Trudeau also addressed Saturday’s announcement of increased scrutiny of certain foreign investments. He said government is focused particularly on foreign investment takeover attempts related to public health or involved in the supply of critical goods and services to Canadians or to the government.

“We wouldn’t want a foreign investor to take that production away from Canadians … and take that overseas,” said Trudeau.

On Saturday the federal government said it would subject “all foreign investments by state-owned investors, regardless of their value, or private investors assessed as being closely tied to or subject to direction from foreign governments, to enhanced scrutiny under the Act.”

Prior to the pandemic, the foreign investment review threshold for investments by state-owned enterprise WTO investors was $416 million in asset value. The threshold is $1.075 billion for WTO investors that are not state-owned.

Look at China’s virus response later

Trudeau was asked about Australia’s call for an independent review of the global response to COVID-19 and the origins of the virus.

Trudeau maintained he is committed to ensuring Canadians’ health is taken care of first.

“I think it’s extremely important to understand exactly what happened. But my priority right now, and for other countries, needs to be to keep people safe and ensure we have the resources to get through this.”

Trudeau and his government has been reluctant to criticize China’s erroneous reporting of the virus impact in Wuhan and Hubei province. And, compared with many other Western countries, Canada remains silent on claims  that the World Health Organization has been unduly influenced by China. Earlier this month Health Minister Patty Hajdu claimed any questioning of China’s virus data is tantamount to feeding into conspiracy theories. She effectively denounced U.S. intelligence reports, as reported by Bloomberg.

Federal government can coordinate on principles of reopening business

Trudeau also addressed questions about how provinces are planning to relax physical distancing restrictions over the coming months.

Many of the decisions about restarting the economy are up to provinces but “we have to do it carefully and do it gradually and be extremely vigilant,” Trudeau said.

“As a federal government,” said Trudeau in French, “we are co-ordinating the approach so the principles that outline the progressive opening of the economy are consistent.”

Trudeau said to guide these principles, Canada is looking at responses of other countries, particularly those that experienced the pandemic earlier, such as in Europe.

Reassurances to disabled people and a call-out to kids

Trudeau said equal access to health care and information and support for jobs and income is important for the disabled community. He recognized the Rick Hansen Foundation for work on addressing COVID-19 issues for people with disabilities.

He took time to address social matters as well, such as asking kids to volunteer at home, in recognition of National Volunteer Week in Canada.

“You can join in from home too,” Trudeau, a father of three, said. “Ask your parents if you can do extra cleaning around the house.

“Help your sister or brother with homework, or say hello to your grandparents on Facetime.”

Growth of infection numbers is settling

As of today provinces and territories are reporting 1,506 people have died of the disease while 33,922 people  have tested positive. There were 39 new deaths and 568 new tested cases yesterday. In B.C. there are now 78 COVID-19-related deaths and 1,618 total positive tests.

“We’re seeing the numbers trend in the right direction,” said Trudeau, “so we need to keep doing what were doing and we need to keep being extremely careful.”

gwood@glaciermedia.ca

 

 

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