Aid programs, partisan politics and the path forward: A dispatch from Ottawa

The Big Story


To Parliament Hill to get a sense of how the aid packages for Canadians have evolved. Since they were first announced. What's available now? What might or might not become available in the future and of course to see if our MP's have figured out the mute button yet. I though I will mute Claire so that she can give you everything. You need to be up to date today. Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr Teresa. Tam says the spread of Cova. Nineteen is slowing in Canada. But the number of deaths is on the rise and she says that's because of outbreaks at long term care homes more than three quarters of the deaths are linked to those facilities. She also talked about testing capacity two weeks ago. She said she believes the country could do sixty thousand tests a day but lately Canada's been averaging twenty eight thousand tests a day she says provinces can help by extending the criteria for who can get tested British Columbia's laid out some plans for easing restrictions around Kovic nineteen starting next weekend. The province is allowing group gatherings of more than six people as long as no one is showing any symptoms of the virus. Also this month. Some businesses in BC will be allowed to reopen including hair salons retail stores museums libraries and some restaurants Dr Bonnie Henry the Provinces Health Officer says BC has put the brakes on the outbreak. But they're not through it yet and Antero Premier Doug Ford says the provinces moving with cautious optimism in the reopening of garden centres nurseries and hardware stores. Ontario's still not technically in its first phase of restarting the economy which was outlined a few weeks ago and the emergency orders have been extended until may nineteenth as of Wednesday evening sixty three thousand four hundred and ninety six cases of Cova Nineteen in Canada with four thousand three hundred and fifty seven deaths and I'm Jordan Heath Rawlings and this is the big story. Cormac McSweeney is the Parliament Hill reporter for city news for Rogers Radio and every once in a while for us and he's working from home and so am I so Forgive the toddler noises. But how are YOU DOING CORMAC? I'm doing all right surviving like everyone else's in isolation well and we're not the only ones doing this now so my first question is just tell me how virtual parliament for the first time ever is going. Well it's been interesting. I mean as you know there have been some troubles some growing pains as MP's and the House of Commons tries to switch to this Basically a really large zoom meeting and they're actually using a version of the zoom platform to host all of this So there have been a lot of troubles as people. Try to figure it out. There were connectivity issues where people were losing their connection and that's unfortunately just a fact of life with a lot of Mp's living in rural areas of the country and not having the same Same sort of connection as you would have. Let's say in Toronto or Ottawa? A lot of 'em. Ps You know figuring out the mute button figuring out the translation button as well because every time somebody doesn't hit the right button it seems to have to pause proceedings to try and deal with it but overall. I think it's been working out all right Aside from the technical hiccups that they've had I it seems to be rolling along smoothly in terms of having MP's MP's question The Prime Minister and different cabinet ministers and I will note as well that this is not technically a sitting of the House of Commons. It's technically a sitting of this special Cova Nineteen Committee that involves every MP and the reason why point that out is because there's there's a difference of procedure so we don't have the normal question period where Thirty SECONDS OF FOUR QUESTION. Thirty seconds for an answer instead because it's a committee. Mp's get about five minutes to question. Whatever minister or the Prime Minister And they can ask as many questions within that time period and the rule of thumb. Is You answer? Just as long as the question has gone on for and so it really does allow for a lot more of a substantial debate and a substantial questioning of the cabinet. Because if you WANNA get a lot of information out of a cabinet minister keep your question short and just squeeze as as many as you can with a five minute period. So what is the tone of those questions and this sitting been lake because to an observer it does seem Less like the. We're all in this together tone That we had six weeks ago. You know when all the aid packages were coming together. Yeah you hit it right there You know at the start of all of this. It seemed like there was going to be no criticism for the Trudeau government right away because this was an unprecedented time and unprecedented measures had to be taken but slowly over the last number of weeks. We've seen The Conservative Party. Start this off where they started questioning the programs being put forward by the government and in a very public fashion. I would say that for the virtual sitting themselves. The tone is actually quite different than what we've seen from the news conference as being held by the individual parties the tone on these Virtual sittings in and these. Qna's that are happening is actually quite different. From the grandstanding and showmanship you normally expect out of question period. In fact everyone's a little bit more toned down and there's I it's much more substantial questioning There's a lot more information coming out. And I think that's a great thing It really shows that without the theatrics that we normally get in question period There can be a good conversation to be had between opposing sides in the House of Commons. But outside of the virtual sittings exactly as we were discussing You know there's been more criticism for the Trudeau. Government people are exposing the gaps in some of the programs that have been announced. And we're really seeing the ideological differences for how we should be dealing with this pandemic at this time and the Conservatives have started raising more and more of opposition to the conservatives add to the true liberals rather as every week has gone on. So it'll be interesting to see where we go from here because up until may twenty fifth were working on a system of Just having one weekly in person a in the House of Commons and then to virtual sittings But the Conservatives for awhile now have been pushing for as many as four in-person sittings each week And so as we approach may twenty fifth Towards the end of this month there'll be more conversations between the opposition parties and the government about how we proceed from here because there's still a lot to do and You know June is when normally parliament would break towards the end of June For the summer break but With this pandemic ongoing and with it being such a fluid situation. I imagine we might see some more unprecedented changes to the procedures of parliament as we move forward and continue to deal with with this pandemic.

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