The Trudeau government made a new offer to opposition parties late Saturday afternoon to restart Parliament on Wednesday and compress five days of question period into two during the COVID-19 pandemic, CBC News has learned.
If the proposal is accepted, Parliament would begin sitting in-person this Wednesday and virtual sittings would commence the following Tuesday on April 28, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation who spoke to CBC News on condition they not be named due to the sensitivity of discussions.
Going forward, there would be virtual sittings equivalent to two question periods with MPs across the country on Tuesdays. On Wednesdays, there would be in-person sittings with the prime minister and approximately 32 MPs facing the equivalent of three question periods, which would amount to about two hours and 15 minutes. This would be followed by two hours and 45 minutes for MPs to study bills and make statements.
If the deal is rejected, MPs and staff are bound to return to Ottawa on Monday.
When the Commons adjourned five weeks ago, it was under an agreement that full sittings would resume April 20.
“I think we can all recognize that, that would be a mistake at this point,” Trudeau said on Saturday during his daily news conference outside of Rideau Cottage.
Legislators have been grappling with how to keep functioning in their roles during this period of physical distancing.
The Liberals initially offered sitting once every week to discuss legislation, but the Conservatives said that wasn’t enough.
After discussions with other parties, we made a new, responsible offer. It follows public health advice and allows MPs to hold the government to account. Let’s now all come together and make Parliament work. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#cdnpoli</a>
In an op-ed published in Postmedia on Saturday, Scheer called for three in-person sittings each week with a reduced number of MPs, including two hours each day for question period.
“Parliament is an essential service,” Scheer wrote.
“Representatives in Japan, Italy, France, Germany, Greece, Sweden, Finland and the European Parliament are continuing to meet during these trying times. Our democracy should be no different.”
BREAKING: Green MPs will not give unanimous consent for calling Parliament together frequently until Public Health advice says it makes sense. Giving the Conservatives a spotlight in QP is not a reason to reconvene. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#cdnpoli</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/GPC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#GPC</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a>
Outgoing Green Party Leader Elizabeth May tweeted on Saturday that her party won’t support any sittings unless public health advice says it’s safe.