The Liberals, supported by the NDP, passed a motion to return to a virtual hybrid Parliament and I want to outline why I opposed it.
Out of the millions of Canadians, only 338 of us get the high honour to represent their constituency.
It’s the people’s House.
It doesn’t belong to the government of the day or the Members of Parliament who temporarily occupy those chairs – it belongs to you.
Millions of Canadians voted in September and chose who they wanted to be their voice.
And when I say voice, I’m not just referring to speaking in Parliament. It’s also all the conversations, committee meetings, briefings, and interactions that are not broadcast on CPAC.
Not only do you want your concerns raised; you want results.
When someone calls my office or sends me a letter seeking help, it makes it very difficult to bend the ear of a Minister if they aren’t here.
And for those who think the Ministers at the best of times make themselves available to opposition Members of Parliament, I can assure you they don’t.
I get it. They are busy and have packed schedules. The demands on their time are great.
And sometimes opposition Members of Parliament ask uncomfortable questions or seek policy changes on things Ministers don’t want to deal with. There are many times it would be more convenient for them to avoid facing these situations.
There are lots of ways to get around this. We can talk to them before Question Period, a vote, or during a Committee appearance. We can run into them in the hall or even in the cafeteria.
Sometimes I just send them a note from across the aisle and they read it right then and there.
The last time we had a virtual option, some Ministers within a stone’s throw away from the House of Commons would simply choose to “Zoom” it in from the comforts of their office.
By making this choice, they quietly evade those important interactions and the accountability that you deserve from your elected leaders.
It goes without saying the House of Commons isn’t your typical office environment.
It’s not a 9 to 5 job.
Every single day while I am in Ottawa I meet with fellow Members of Parliament, staff, subject matter experts, or analysts on finding solutions to the issues people have asked me to work on.
Sometimes it’s over breakfast or a late evening meeting. It doesn’t bother me what time of the day it is, as long as I have an opportunity to make my case and put forward solutions.
During the last Parliament when we went to a virtual hybrid Parliament, we quickly found out endless Zoom meetings and group chats could never replace those interactions.
To succeed and get results for constituents, we must build friendships and working relationships with Members of Parliament from all political parties.
At times when we cannot persuade the government to either backdown or change their position, we must then do everything in our power to put pressure on them.
That means getting the attention of everyday Canadians.
That could either be in Committee, Question Period, or in regular debate. Or it could be starting the conversation and the media taking it from there in a press scrum.
With Ministers not taking their seats in person or being around, it can be very difficult to get traction.
On the larger issue of making sure that Parliament can operate during COVID, I want to remind my Liberal colleagues they called an election and held rallies throughout it all.
If the Prime Minister gets to jet off to the Pacific coast for a vacation, the very least we could ask is
for Members of Parliament to come to Ottawa.
If they can send a massive delegation to a conference on a different continent, Liberal Ministers can come to Parliament.
If hockey and football stadiums can operate at full capacity, with thousands of spectators in attendance, Parliament can operate.
Millions of Canadians from coast-to-coast don’t have the option to participate in a hybrid workplace.
The Liberals and NDP are asking for special treatment and accommodations that average Canadians do not have access to.
Those workers show up day in and day out to keep our supply chains moving, to teach our children, ensure our hospitals continue running, and ensure we have food on the dinner table.
The least we can do is expect our elected representatives to show up and take their seat in Parliament.
For those reasons and many more, I voted no to allow Liberal Ministers to Zoom it in.
We already know the Prime Minister finds Parliament an inconvenience and I don’t plan on making it any easier for him than I must.