Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer leaves a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, April 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Conservatives gear up to grill government in modified return of House of Commons

The meetings will focus largely, if not exclusively, on the COVID-19 response

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer laid out Monday the numerous lines of inquiry his party intends to follow this week as a modified version of a House of Commons sitting gets underway.

They include the state of the nation’s emergency supply stockpile, the mishmash of federal economic benefit programs that allow some to fall through the cracks and to what extent the minority Liberals are backstopping provincial efforts to reopen their economies, Scheer said.

“It is incumbent on the prime minister to immediately present Canadians with a plan outlining how his government will support provinces and territories as they revise health restrictions over and above the national guidelines that are currently being developed,” Scheer said.

READ MORE: Canada’s re-opening will be ‘guided by science’, normal life still a long way off: feds

Though described by the prime minister Monday as the first virtual sitting of Parliament, what’s actually happening Tuesday is the first meeting of a special committee struck to somewhat mirror the routine of the House of Commons.

Parliament itself is adjourned until late May, following its first postponement in mid-March due to the near-countrywide shutdown in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

All-party consensus had been required to keep it closed past April 20. The Opposition Conservatives wanted a return to four days of sittings, albeit with a much smaller group than the 338 MPs who make up the House of Commons.

But the NDP and Bloc Quebecois agreed to support the Liberals’ proposal of the committee, with its two virtual and one in-person sittings each week.

All 338 MPs are on the committee, but only seven are required for quorum, as opposed to the 20 for a normal sitting of the Commons. The meetings will focus largely, if not exclusively, on the COVID-19 response for between two and five hours a day.

As Scheer calls for a Liberal plan, behind closed doors his caucus is also drawing up what a conservative approach to getting the economy back on track would look like.

The Conservative caucus coronavirus response and recovery committee is led by deputy party leader Leona Alleslev, who said the intent is to help provide more structure to the Opposition as it takes on the Liberals in the coming months.

READ MORE: More than 10,000 businesses apply for wage subsidy on opening morning: Trudeau

Alleslev said the Conservatives are helping to govern the country in these uncertain times, even if they are one of the opposition parties.

“Our role is to do that thinking, as much as to respond what the government presents, to understand how we would do it differently and that’s whether you’re in a minority or a majority.”

One Conservative’s approach to the government’s COVID-19 response drew heated criticism late last week.

Derek Sloan, an MP also running for leadership of the Conservatives, asked whether chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam was working “for China or Canada,” a question that drew accusations of racism given she was born in Hong Kong.

Scheer had initially refused to address Sloan’s remarks, saying he would not discuss ideas put forward by leadership candidates. The backlash they prompted, including by Conservatives, saw him clarify Monday that he does not agree with Sloan’s characterization, nor does the Conservative caucus.

“It is not appropriate to question someone’s loyalty to their country. I believe that is a very serious accusation that you have to have some very substantial evidence to make,” Scheer said.

Scheer said the Conservatives’ position is Tam can’t be the scapegoat for the government’s approach to COVID-19, and it is the government only that can be held accountable on that score.

Scheer suggested Sloan will face no repercussions for his comments within caucus. Party members who will cast a ballot in the leadership race are the ones who will ultimately decide on Sloan’s political fate, he said.

That race is currently on pause as the vote organizers decide how and when it can proceed. A meeting to do so is scheduled for Friday.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Andrew ScheerCoronavirusParliament

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Severe storm warning remains in effect for the Kootenays

Two special weather statements have been issued for the West Kootenay

‘I knew what he wanted’: Man recalls black bear chasing him up tree in Slocan Valley

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

No passenger flights at West Kootenay Regional Airport until at least September

This is the third time Air Canada has announced changes to flight operations out of the airport

Powerful thunderstorms called for the West Kootenay this weekend

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement Thursday afternoon.

Minimum wage goes up June 1 in B.C. as businesses face COVID-19 challenges

The minimum wage jumps by 75 cents to $14.60 an hour on Monday

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Join Kootenay family in virtual walk for Ronald McDonald House

“We always described it as our oasis in the middle of the desert,” Brigitte Ady shares.

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Most Read