Residents here in Peace River – Westlock have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. People worry about our essential service workers, the stability of our healthcare system, our jobs and the economy.
Since the beginning of this crisis, our entire Conservative caucus has been working hard to help all Canadians get the support they need as quickly as possible. The Liberals have incorporated a number of the solutions we raised to improve their initial response to the pandemic, largely due to the last two emergency sittings of Parliament that allowed for Opposition oversight.
That is why the Conservative party called for three in-person sittings a week of about 30 MPs. However, the Liberals, Bloc and NDP ignored this and instead voted for once a week in-person sittings on Wednesdays with virtual sittings on Tuesdays [as well as Thursdays in May].
The Liberals plowed ahead with virtual sittings despite a clear warning from the Clerk of the House of Commons, Charles Robert, that the House of Commons does not currently have the capacity to host virtual meetings of Parliament with all 338 MPs until at least mid-May. As a result, the ability of MPs to raise the important questions that affect the lives and livelihoods of so many of our constituents is severely undermined.
The hard reality is that many Canadians continue to fall through the cracks. For example, some farmers and small businesses in our riding are finding themselves ineligible for the Canada Emergency Business Account due to a lack of a payroll or CRA business account. There are also many people who have lost their job in the oil and gas sector and their EI has now run out and don’t qualify for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit.
On April 29, I will be in Ottawa with about a dozen of my colleagues to ask the Liberal government about these urgent situations. But over 100 of my Conservative colleagues won’t have the opportunity to ask the tough questions on behalf of their constituents for at least another month when the capacity for virtual meetings is available.
Many of these Canadians and their businesses can’t wait that long. We need answers on how the government will ensure everyone gets the support they need and how they plan to reopen the economy.
Conservatives will continue to call for increased in-person sessions in Parliament to get better results for Canadians and ask these important questions.
Arnold Viersen, MP,
Peace River – Westlock