New Democrat MP Doubts Alberta Conservatives’ Virtual Presence

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The only non-Conservative member from Alberta said she was disappointed that some Conservative MPs from Alberta did not participate in special meetings of the House of Commons COVID-19 committee.The Commons, which had largely been adjourned since mid-March to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, initially only met to pass an emergency aid law and to reach a new operating agreement from the room.

In late May, the New Democrats joined forces with the ruling Liberals to waive normal procedures for another four months and continue with an enlarged version of a special COVID-19 committee that served as a replacement for bedroom.

Conservative and Bloc members voted against the virtual sessions because they wanted more parliamentary control.

There have been 14 new hybrid sessions since the change at the end of May, but an NDP count shows that the average attendance of Alberta Conservative MPs was around 42%; the number was confirmed by The Canadian Press by minutes online.

NDP MP Heather McPherson, who represents Edmonton Strathcona, attended all of the online meetings and said that she did not understand why other Alberta politicians were not participating.

“I’m a little shocked,” she said in an interview this week. “I have the impression that the members of Parliament from Alberta, more than all members from the rest of the country, must fight for Albertans.

“We need all the help we can get. ”

Of the 33 Conservative MPs from Alberta, none attended the 14 meetings. About a dozen attended more than half and four did not participate at all.

Not a boycott

Len Webber, who represents the Confederation of Calgary and is also chair of the Alberta Conservative caucus, said the number of participants was news to him.

“I keep going when I can,” he said.

The online meeting minutes show that Webber attended two of the COVID-19 special meetings at the start of the pandemic and has not participated in any since the May 26 change.

Other politicians who have not attended any of the past 14 meetings are Calgary Heritage MP Bob Benzen, Edmonton Riverbend MP and health critic Matt Jeneroux and Calgary Signal Hill MP Ron Liepert.

Webber said it was not a boycott by the Conservatives. He suggests that many members – including himself – be busy at other meetings. He is on the health committee, for example, and the minutes show that he attended all these meetings.

There are also regular Zoom calls with other members to prepare for meetings and ongoing constituency issues, he said.

“There are good reasons why certain deputies cannot attend. ”

Webber wondered if the attendance figures were correct.

He added that MPs could only ask a lot of questions during special meetings of the COVID-19 committee.

“There are certainly members of Alberta asking questions,” he said. “They are there to represent their constituents.” »

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks and is projected onto large screens during the first hybrid parliamentary committee in the House of Commons. (Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press)

McPherson said the NDP voted to hold hybrid meetings so that every member of Parliament has the opportunity to participate in Parliament and represent their constituents.

“We were able to ask questions,” she said.

One of the changes made in late May was an earlier restriction that prevented MPs from asking questions about issues other than the pandemic.

McPherson said she had asked about worker safety at the Cargill meat plant in southern Alberta, helping people with disabilities and supporting small businesses in Alberta that were not eligible for government assistance during the pandemic.

She suggested that it was also helpful to hear other issues that politicians raise.

McPherson said she was particularly surprised that some of her fellow MPs from Alberta had not come at all because the people of the province are going through a difficult time.

“I’m really happy to work with anyone at any party … but you have to introduce yourself,” she said.

McPherson admitted the current system is not perfect, but said it is a good compromise that helps contain the spread of COVID-19 by preventing people from traveling to Ottawa from across Canada for sessions. no one.

“We couldn’t do business as usual. “

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