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Government House leader wants another year of hybrid Parliament for MPs | CBC News

Liberal House leader Mark Holland said Monday the government plans to allow members of Parliament to appear virtually for another year.

He made the announcement after speaking with House leaders from opposition parties.

Rules allowing MPs to appear virtually in the House of Commons and to vote using an app on their phones were introduced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when public health officials urged people to work from home.

Since then, millions of Canadians have been returning to work in different formats.

Holland said the government will be moving forward with a motion to extend the hybrid virtual Parliament for an additional year.

He said the flexibility is still needed. He pointed out that five MPs — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — had COVID-19 last week and couldn’t appear in person.

Holland said he’s sympathetic to calls from opposition benches to have MPs attend the House of Commons in person and is committed to having government members physically show up to provide answers during question period, barring illness or the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant that is cause for concern.

The House of Commons in Ottawa on Tuesday March 24, 2020. Rules allowing MPs to appear virtually in the House of Commons and to vote using an app on their phones were introduced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when public health officials urged people to work from home. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Whether that will satisfy the Conservatives remains to be seen. They’ve been insisting MPs should be in their seats except in special circumstances, such as illness or outside events like funerals.

Tory House leader John Brassard plans to address the plan to extend virtual Parliament at a press conference Monday afternoon.

Holland said the plan includes a request for a parliamentary committee to study MPs’ use of the virtual option and the voting app.

Monday marks the first day in months that MPs can enter buildings in the Parliamentary precinct regardless of their vaccination status.

It was announced last week that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate would be suspended for the area, following a government decision to lift a mandate covering federally regulated sectors like air travel and the federal civil service.

One MP who welcomed that news was rural Saskatchewan MP Cathay Wagantall.

She refused to disclose her vaccination status and has been unable to take her seat in the House since the rule took effect last November.

“I’m looking forward to being in my seat on Monday, if all the details can come together to enable me to be there, ” she said in a statement last Friday.

“No longer being denied my right to represent my constituents in the House of a Commons is a welcome result and a good use of a unanimous consent motion.”

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