By now I hope that many people have figured this out, when restrictions are lifted, when we’re not physically distancing on purpose and when we are no longer making our kitchen tables do double duty as a workspace life will be different; way more different than we expect. Here are two aspects of our lives that could be part of major shifts after COVID-19. The next #redheartbluesign will tackle the care of our seniors,
The phrase “it’s the economy stupid” comes to mind when I consider the actions take to date. For Justin Trudeau, it will be “it’s the green economy stupid”. An economic shift will take place as we move out of the isolation and restrictive guidelines. The federal government has signalled that they will use this economic recovery to shift to a green economy. The Liberal government has indicated in the past its desire to do this. They introduced the Pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change in 2016. Provincial Environment Ministers met in October of that year, it was at that meeting Minister Catherine McKenna told her provincial counterparts that there were only two options to meet federal regulations in the framework; a carbon tax or cap and trade policy.
As we look to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, this would be the perfect time to restructure our economy in a green direction. The budget Bill Morneau must have been ready to deliver months ago surely has been fed to shredder by now. The economic needs of the country are completely out of whack from they were at the start of March. It is not going to be just about minor adjustments, it will be about shocking the economy to a full restart. The federal government recently announced 1$1.7 billion to clean up orphan oil wells. While the focus of this is might be to get energy workers back to work, it’s a green clean up that has been demanded by environmentalists for years. It is one step that Ottawa has taken to their green economic shift.
There is no doubt that Trudeau will take this road, but how he’ll do it is still the big question. He has the chance to merge from fossil fuels to green energy but don’t discount that he’ll use the end of the COVID lock-up to make a drastic left turn and leave the oil industry scrambling to catch up.
Parliament has met thrice since it adjourned on March 13th because of COVID-19. Two sittings were emergency sitting to pass COVID aid packages and Parliament met again as scheduled on Monday April 20th. On each of these occasions’ Parliament met with 32 Members, a proportional representation of the minority parliament. Before sitting on April 20th, the debate leading up to the return was how many times MPs would meet in the House of Commons. Reading the news, or if you believe the Prime Minister, the question was about every 338 MPs return. Negotiations did not go well; the left (The Government + Bloc Quebecois, NDP and Green Party) was facing off against the Conservatives on this. One side wanted fewer live sittings, the other more. The heart of this matter is, does a virtual sitting benefit Canadians and ensure effective governing is on place. The Conservatives final offer was on three in person sessions. The left won out and now Parliament has to figure out how to do it.
There is more to Parliament than sitting in the House; Members of Parliament come to Ottawa for a number of purposes, yes MPs are required to sit in the House for Questions Periods everyday then one full day a week as ‘house duty’. Much of an MP’s time is spent in committee, at stakeholder meetings, meeting with other MPs, meetings with constituents and meeting up with groups that come to Ottawa for a tour of the parliamentary buildings. Informal gatherings are a huge part of life on the Hill, cultural and political worlds collide for informal discussions and introductions on many topics of interest. Does moving to a virtual parliament benefit how parliamentarians meet and listen to Canadians? What is the balance and how does Parliament come up with it?
When COVID restrictions are lifted, what becomes of the work taken to establish virtual House sittings? Will virtual be the way of the future, will Parliament make having 338 MP’s in the House the exception rather than the rule? As has happened recently, the government may make votes on economic measures as the only reason for bringing MPs to Ottawa. All other votes, debates and motions could be done remotely. The question is, does this benefit Canadians? Is there a will to have government become less or more accountable? Would a virtual parliament ‘close’ the brick and mortar of our government to Canadians?
Thanks for reading. Stay safe and wash your hands. Part 2 will be posted Wednesday.
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