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MPs will be participating virtually in the business of Parliament for another year under a plan announced Monday by the government House Leader.

Mark Holland said he has told House leaders from the other parties that the government is committed to having questions answered in person, barring serious health issues or the emergence of a new variant.

However, he said there’s a need to be mindful of the ongoing reality of COVID-19, noting that, last week, five MPs, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, had COVID-19 so could only participate by hybrid options.

“So this pandemic continues and so does the need to have flexibility,” he said, adding a motion on the issue is to be reviewed by a parliamentary committee.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, rules were enacted allowing MPs the option of virtual participation in the House and voting through an app on their phones.

But John Brassard, the Conservative House leader, rejected Mr. Holland’s proposal.

“When the Liberals talk about a hybrid Parliament, what they are really talking about is setting up a Parliament where they can be less accountable,” he told a news conference.

“Having MPs in this place, debating, standing up and having their vote counted is critical to, not just this institution, but the way our Parliamentary democracy functions.”

Mr. Brassard said the physical absence of ministers allows them to avoid media and opposition questioning, and is also causing stress for interpreters - a situation detailed here.

“There’s no reason the House of Commons can’t return to in-person sitting in the fall,” he said, adding it was “beyond me” why the issue had come up in the last week of Parliament.

He also said he would need to see some science and other evidence to justify the policy.

Still, he said he had spoken to Mr. Holland on Monday morning. “We’re preparing some things we think are going to make the motion better.”

The party House leaders debated plans for the fall Monday as the spring sitting nears its end. The House is scheduled to break on Thursday for the summer, but could rise sooner. House sittings are scheduled to resume on Sept. 19.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you're reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY'S HEADLINES

GOVERNMENT COMMITS TO UPGRADE NORAD - The Canadian government will spend $4.9-billion over six years to help upgrade continental defences as part of a modernization of NORAD to deal with the growing threat posed by hypersonic missiles and advanced cruise missile technology developed by Russia and China. Story here.

MPS MAY GET PANIC BUTTONS: MENDICINO - Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino says he is looking into giving MPs panic buttons to increase their personal security. Story here.

BOISCLAIR PLEADS GUILTY - Former Parti Québécois leader André Boisclair has pleaded guilty to having sexually assaulted two men in 2014 and 2015. Story here from The Montreal Gazette.

LOBBYING COMMISSIONER PROPOSES CODE OF CONDUCT CHANGES - The federal Commissioner of Lobbying is proposing changes to the industry’s code of conduct, including shortening the “cooling-off” period for lobbyists who have worked on political campaigns. Story here.

SOVEREIGNTY BACK AS A POINT OF DISCUSSION IN QUEBEC - Talk of sovereignty has returned to Quebec politics. The government of Premier François Legault has made a series of gestures that have raised the periodic question of the province’s place within Canada. Story here.

LAWSUIT AGAINST FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CERTIFIED - The Federal Court of Canada has certified a class-action lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of off-reserve Indigenous children who were taken from their families and placed in non-Indigenous care. Story here.

TALIBAN TRACKING WORKERS ON CANADIAN-FUNDED AID PROJECTS - Two hundred Afghans, mostly women who worked on Canadian-funded aid projects in Afghanistan, are being tracked down by the Taliban and are in hiding after the militants obtained their names from a confiscated cellphone. Story here.

LIBERALS NEED TO DEFINE POILIEVIRE NOW: POLITICAL PLAYERS - With the presumed Conservative leadership front-runner Pierre Poilievre widely expected to become party leader on Sept. 10, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals should start to define their future opponent now before he gets a chance to define himself, say top political players. Story here from The Hill Times.

CONSERVATIVE LEADERSHIP RACE

POILIEVRE PROMISES “FREE SPEECH GUARDIAN” - Pierre Poilievre announced, in a statement, that, if he becomes prime minister, he would tie federal funding for universities through research funding and grants to upholding Section 2 of the charter, which includes freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication and freedom of association. And he would appoint a former judge, known as a Free Speech Guardian, who will report on compliance by universities and will investigate claims of academic censorship.

THIS AND THAT

TODAY IN THE COMMONS – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, June 20, accessible here.

FREELAND HOSTS YELLEN - In Toronto, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, also the Finance Minister, is meeting throughout the day with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. The day includes a working lunch, an armchair discussion at the Rotman School of Management, a tour of Evoco, a Canadian biotechnology company, a joint press conference and a working dinner.

GUILBEAULT AND DUCLOS ANNOUNCE PLASTIC POLICY - Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, and Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos held a hybrid news conference in Quebec City to announce a new policy on how companies manage plastic bags. Details here.

O’TOOLE REFLECTS - Former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, in an interview on CBC Radio’s The House, talks about the convoy, China and the caucus revolt that ended his leadership. Check here.

FORD ANNOUNCING CABINET FRIDAY - Ontario Premier Doug Ford will unveil his new post-election cabinet on Friday as he and that cabinet are sworn in in Toronto.

THE DECIBEL

On Monday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Bill Curry, the Globe’s Deputy Ottawa Bureau Chief, explains the limits to the levers the governing Liberals can pull on for the economic quandary of dealing with skyrocketing prices and correcting prices in grocery stores and at the pump. Last week, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland unveiled the Liberals’ plan to tackle inflation, which was 6.8 per cent in April. The Decibel is here.

PRIME MINISTER'S DAY

Private meetings

LEADERS

No schedules released for party leaders.

OPINION

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on whether the Liberal Party can replace Justin Trudeau:Any other party, with any other leader, would already have plans, or plots, to replace him. Yet for the Liberal Party of Canada, the big challenge would be finding a replacement leader who isn’t seen as a pale imitation – a Trudeau Liberal who isn’t Justin Trudeau. By profile, the obvious contender is Chrystia Freeland, the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, who now delivers budgets, handles major policy files, steps in for the Prime Minister on key occasions, and often stands next to him for major announcements. But if the problem with Mr. Trudeau seeking re-election in 2025 is that it’s been too much Trudeau, and Canadians are tired of the way he’s done things, it’s hard to imagine Ms. Freeland being seen as the wind of change. And for all the weight Ms. Freeland has in Mr. Trudeau’s government – she led NAFTA talks with Mr. Trump’s administration, helped build political peace with Ontario Premier Doug Ford, and is responsible for the pandemic-recovery fiscal plan – she isn’t a political performer like the PM. Few people are.”

Tanya Talaga (The Globe and Mail) on following seven sacred teachings in this graduation season: June is graduation season. It is also National Indigenous History month, four weeks set aside to celebrate and reflect on what it means to be First Nations, Métis or Inuit. It is not lost on me that the quintessential juxtaposition of Canada is experienced this month, in two starkly different realities: a celebration of obtaining a diploma in a country where, for about 100 years, children were forced to attend so-called schools that worked to erase who they were – places that took so much that generations afterward continue to pay the price of what Canada did.”

Charlie Angus (Policy Magazine) on being an MP in the age of conspiracy: Parliament Hill security is advising elected officials to scope out public events before entering, to be briefed in advance on potential threats, and have an escape plan in case things go wrong. The security experts admitted that the toxicity, rage and threats faced by elected officials have become so amped up it’s difficult to come up with workable solutions.”

Steve Paikin (TVO) on the hard questions that Ontario Greens to ask themselves: “Let me state right here that Green-party acolytes aren’t going to like what I’m about to write, because I’m going to put some uncomfortable facts about the Greens on the record. Green candidates have been contesting elections in Ontario since 1985. That’s 11 election campaigns. During those campaigns, 1,290 seats have been up for grabs. The Greens have won one seat, twice — leader Mike Schreiner’s, in Guelph.”

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