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

Surrey to pay TransLink $30M in land, $9M in cash for work on cancelled LRT

Council considered staff report on city’s 2019 annual financial statements during Monday’s “virtual” council meeting

Surrey RCMP promise enforcement at unofficial show ‘n’ shines

Cars have been impounded at the site in the last two years

‘There’s no playbook for this’: South Surrey sports organizations await approval to return to play

Local associations planning for modified summer seasons as COVID-19 restrictions ease

Local Chinese Canadians aim to counter COVID-19 backlash

Few racist incidents on Peninsula, says Community Engagement Society

Surrey now has second urgent and primary care centre, in Newton, premier says

Premier John Horgan noted that some 90,000 people in Surrey don’t have a family doctor

B.C. retirement home creates innovative ‘meet-up’ unit for elderly to see family face-to-face

Innovative ‘purpose-built’ unit keeps residents safe when seeing family for first time since COVID-19

Death toll rises in COVID-19 outbreak at Langley Lodge

Number has risen to 22, making it the worst to date in B.C.

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Help the ‘Cloverdale Reporter’ continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Nanaimo senior clocked going 50 km/hr over limit says her SUV shouldn’t be impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

United Way allocating $6.6M in federal funding to help with food security, youth mental health

Applications from Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland charities being accepted for the emergency funding

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

Most Read