The president of the House of commons, Anthony Rota has argued Monday that it was better to deploy the vote virtual in the fall, since it will take time to put in place the right system.
July 6, 2020 19h16
Mps can juggle with different scenarios of vote virtual in the Commons
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – While millions of Canadians are planning a telework extended in order to control the spread of the COVID-19, the federal mps struggling with a very specific problem : how to vote virtually in a safe way?
Different options are now on the table, then members of parliament and hundreds of civil servants, behind the scenes, begin to plan for what might look like sessions of the Parliament in the autumn – to the extent possible.
“Is it better to meet in person or virtually, in September?” asked Monday, the president of the House of commons, Anthony Rota, the standing Committee on procedure and House affairs. “The COVID has changed so much along the way that it is very difficult to predict what will happen in a month and a half or two months,” he admitted.
But in the meantime, a mobile application could be deployed in order to allow the members to vote, whether on Parliament hill or not, ” says Mr. Rota. The application is fully bilingual, meets accessibility standards and is secure, enabling, in particular, for administrators to know where are the mps when they vote and authenticate their identity.
The liberal government has struggled to find a mode of voting that is secure, while the conservative opposition demanded the resumption of the “normal” of the work of the Parliament. Several compromises have been made along the way, including a hybrid model that allows members to participate in person or virtually in the discussions in the Room or in the meetings of the committees of the Commons.
These discussions and meetings have been limited in scope and the conservatives have been pushing for a full return to business, that would expand the powers of mps to put pressure on the government and obtain more information on the management of current affairs.
At the present time, the Parliament should resume its work at full-time on the 21st of September – a single day of session is, however, expected this week. These days of summer meeting were part of the concessions obtained by the opposition parties as they fought for the government to be more accountable.
Video conferencing, hybrid model…
The president Rota argued Monday that it was better to deploy the vote virtual in the fall, since it will take time to put in place the right system.
In addition to an application, Mr. Rota has presented to deputies the option of an approach to video conferencing that grefferait on the hybrid model currently in place. The report of Mr. Rota raises several concerns about the possibility of video conferences, including unstable internet connections, the time it would take to devote to it and the difficult question of the members who are not present to vote.
It should, for example, name each member in turn, to verify that it has not closed its speaker, or that he doesn’t feel by connection problems. “The absence of a member would be reported to the public, the media and other members of the Chamber, which is contrary to the current practice,” the report says of the presidency.
Observers have noticed recently that many conservatives didn’t appear regularly in the work of the “special committee COVID-19”, which has replaced the ordinary meeting of the House of commons. Because, in contrast to the standard sessions of the House, it is currently possible to know exactly who is present.
The conservatives are largely opposed to the vote virtual : they do not want that the elected members are too far away from the Parliament hill. They argue instead that it is possible to adjust routine procedures to allow for a separation physical in the Room and they asked the president how the vote could be held “in person”.
Make the file
Mr. Rota has admitted that mps could, for example, to queue at the outside of the Chamber before voting, they could also vote “by wave”, or by proxy. This vote in person, however, would be long, and the operation would also require time and personnel to disinfect the Room every time.
The members of the standing Committee on procedure and House affairs, hoping to formulate their recommendations to the Parliament later this month.