OTTAWA — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh wants Parliament recalled early so MPs can pass legislation, if necessary, and hold the Liberal government to account as regions introduce restrictions to control the surge of COVID-19 cases.
Singh said Thursday that “scary” modelling data for the country’s most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec, show trend lines pushing hospital capacity closer to its breaking points.
Shutdowns are vital but support and help also needs to be in place for Canadians, he said.
“That includes looking at every measure possible to ensure that we’re not overburdening our health-care system which is at the brink right now,” Singh said. “I think we have to take this very seriously.”
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The NDP leader’s comments come the same day Ontario’s new stay-at-home order comes into effect.
Under the new order, police in the province are able to ticket people who leave their home for non-essential reasons. Interpretation of the new rules has fuelled some confusion with non-essential retailers remaining open for curbside pick-up.
Quebec’s curfew came into force over the weekend, which will remain in effect for four weeks.
Singh said tightened restrictions in Ontario and Quebec to limit the movement of people, and the potential spread of COVID-19, are hurting small businesses.
The NDP wants to get a jump on issues such as paid sick leave, long-term care, and additional help for businesses. These are time-sensitive topics that require immediate attention from MPs, Singh said.
“These three things are top of mind in terms of what we need to address immediately and these can’t wait a week or two weeks. We need to get to work immediately.”
Singh said when the House returns, he wants to see public health guidelines followed — and the number of MPs allowed in the chamber reduced.
Federal parties struck an agreement last spring to reduce the number of MPs allowed physically in the chamber, in proportion to party standings, during hybrid sittings.
Some Parties had as many as 10 MPs in the chamber, Singh said. “We think it needs to be much lower than that.”
Singh said parties have yet to reach an agreement on how the upcoming sitting will look when the House returns later this month.
The Liberal government hasn’t given any indication that Parliament will be recalled early.
“We have just seen the comments made by Mr. Singh and we don’t have anything to say at this point specifically,” said Simon Ross, Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez’s spokesperson.
Ross told HuffPost Canada the government “remains committed to making Parliament work well for Canadians as our country faces the continuing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The hybrid model of Parliament, with some members physically present while others join sessions via video conference, was a format that worked under the circumstances, Ross added.
When the new session of Parliament got underway in September, with no immediate end of the pandemic in sight at the time, efforts were made to design and test secure remote voting.
The House adopted a motion on Sept. 23 asking administrators to “develop and test a secure remote voting application that would include a visual component to authenticate members’ identities and a notification to all members’ House-managed mobile devices.”
“We have put forward a proposal to other parties on how to proceed with the work of Parliament during the pandemic,” Ross said. “We look forward to constructive discussions with them in advance of the return of Parliament.
The House of Commons is currently scheduled to return Jan. 25.