MPs should return quickly, in person, to Parliament after last week’s federal election, but only if they are fully vaccinated, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet says.
They shouldn’t be allowed to come back if they’re not, Mr. Blanchet told a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday. “I do think we have to go back to working normally.”
Mr. Blanchet said Canadians have recently elected 338 members of Parliament whose workplace is the House of Commons. “And that’s where we should be working.” During the pandemic, Parliament has largely been operating with a hybrid mix of online and in-person participation.
The BQ Leader’s comments follow Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first extended postelection news conference on Tuesday in which he said he will unveil a new cabinet in October, and that the House of Commons will be recalled some time this fall. Mr. Blanchet was critical of Mr. Trudeau’s suggestion that Parliament may not resume until December.
During the campaign, Conservative Erin O’Toole was the only leader to not disclose the vaccination status of his party’s candidates. Asked about the issue in mid-September, the NDP and the Bloc both said all of their candidates were vaccinated and the Liberals said all but one of their candidates were vaccinated, with the exception being someone with a medical exemption.
Asked on Wednesday about Conservative MPs, Mr. Blanchet said they should not enter Parliament if they are not vaccinated. “They get fully vaccinated or they stay home,” he said.
Conservative MP Alain Rayes pushed back on the Bloc Leader’s comments.
“Public-health [officials] will come up with the rules, not Yves-François Blanchet,” Mr. Rayes said. “I’ll rely on the experts who will tell us the safest way to proceed. We definitely want to work in person as much as possible. That said, the hybrid system helped some MPs with particular family or other circumstances.”
A representative of Pablo Rodriguez, government house leader in the past Parliament, said in a statement that Mr. O’Toole did not apply the same standard for his candidates as the Liberals did during the campaign.
“With the return of Parliament this fall, this will be a relevant issue. We believe MPs who choose to set foot on the floor of the House of Commons and committee rooms should be fully vaccinated, unless there is a valid medical exemption,” said the statement, issued by Simon Ross,.
“This will be a key part of future discussions on the return of Parliament. It’s a matter of safety for all MPs, their communities and for all staff who work at the House of Commons.”“
Chelsea Tucker, director of communications for Mr. O’Toole, said that if Mr. Trudeau believes it was safe enough to have an election during the fourth wave of the pandemic, it’s safe enough for the House of Commons to resume in-person sittings.
“Canadians deserve a government that is accountable to its constituents and that’s why under no circumstances will Conservatives support virtual Parliament,” Ms. Tucker said in a statement.
NDP MP Peter Julian said getting vaccinated is the right thing to do.
“Elected leaders have a responsibility to set a good example by following public health advice,” Mr. Julian said in a statement..
“Canadians expect the federal government to get back to work as soon as possible so they can get the support they need. We think there’s value in continuing some hybrid.”
With a report from Bill Curry
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