Fashioning a Pandemic Parliament: Getting On with Getting On

Article 4 / 14 , Vol 43 No 3 (Autumn)

Fashioning a Pandemic Parliament: Getting On with Getting On

Following the initial flurry of activity and uncertainty, as institutions responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the world has settled into a new normal in which the disease – and actions to prevent its spread such as travel restrictions and physical/social distancing – will remain part of life for the foreseeable future. Building on a previous article that examined the early actions of Canada’s federal parliament as the world confronted outbreaks of this novel coronavirus, the author now explores how to identify best practices that ensure the health and safety of parliamentarians and parliamentary staff while respecting parliamentary privilege and constitutional requirements. The author suggests that hybrid sittings (a mix of in-person and virtual participation) combined with a greater role for committee work could become a workable medium-term solution for parliaments during a pandemic. He cautions, however, that it must be parliament and not the government that decides how to fulfill the functions that underpin the Westminster system, maintain notions of parliamentary confidence in government and ensure adequate opportunity for opposition review to ensure accountability. Moreover, he notes that any additional authority granted by parliament to the government or self-restrictions imposed in light of pandemic conditions must be temporary and limited to the duration of the pandemic.

Steven Chaplin
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