(Quebec) The mystery hovers around the parliamentary reopening of February 2 at the National Assembly. Will it be completely virtual or will the elected representatives be present in the flesh and blood of parliament?
No one can answer this question yet.
No agreement has yet been reached between the government House leader, Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, and the leaders of the three opposition parties, sources involved in the negotiations said on Friday.
The channels of communication are not broken, negotiations are continuing to determine what form the return of parliamentarians should take, but elected officials on both sides of the House remain firm on their positions.
The government wants a completely virtual return to school, while the opposition parties insist on being physically in the Blue Room, at least for the portion of parliamentary business that allows them to demand that the government be accountable and answer their questions, as was the case in the fall.
The schools are open, the construction industry is working, the Montreal Canadiens have started to put on their skates again, so under what principle should parliament, the seat of Quebec democracy, close its doors completely? This is, in essence, the question on everyone’s lips in the ranks of the opposition.
At the beginning of the week, a meeting scheduled between parliamentary leaders and Public Health should, it is hoped, make it possible to resolve the impasse, by finding a compromise between the desire of elected officials to cross swords in parliament and the objective take into account health recommendations.
The opposition parties say they are ready to consider a tightening of health measures, if the government, for its part, puts water in its wine and ensures a physical presence of elected officials in the National Assembly for part of the parliamentary work .
In the last week, two consultations were held on bills and it all happened virtually. Bills 59, on occupational health and safety, and 84, on a reform of the compensation program for victims of crime, have been criticized, analyzed from all angles, without anyone showing up. parliament. No major technical glitch was noted.
The opposition parties would therefore be prepared to accept that future consultations on bills and, overall, parliamentary committee work continue to function in this way.
One of the fears of the opposition is to think that the government could use the pandemic and the imposition of health measures as a pretext to seek to escape, by putting aside its obligation to be accountable to the opposition on its management .
The Leader of the Government, Simon Jolin-Barrette, did not respond to a request for an interview.
Already, since spring, strict measures have been applied. The 125 deputies are never again at the same time in the Blue Room, which operates in very small formation. Less than forty elected officials are allowed to be present at the same time, at a good distance from each other.
Since July 18, anyone in the National Assembly buildings must wear a mask.
In fact, since the start of the pandemic in March, parliament has been practically deserted: most of the employees of the National Assembly are telecommuting. The parliament is closed to visitors.
No outbreak of COVID-19 has been reported to the National Assembly.