The Story of the Virtual Parliament

Article 2 / 11 , Vol 44 No. 1 (Spring)

The Story of the Virtual Parliament

The Honourable Anthony Rota is the Speaker of the House of Commons, and the Member of Parliament for Nipissing-Timiskaming, Ontario.

As it became apparent in March 2020 that the COVID-19 pandemic would significantly disrupt many aspects of Canadian life, the MPs and the House of Commons Administration began to discuss how parliamentary business could continue in these exceptional circumstances. In this article, the author, Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota, explains how the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) met to determine how to resume parliamentary sittings in a way that would respect health and safety protocols while maintaining their parliamentary rights and privileges. He notes that longstanding relationships within the House of Commons Administration were key to facilitating a shift to hybrid virtual sittings in a timely manner. By learning from the experiences of other parliaments and drawing on technical infrastructure that had been built over several years, the House of Commons Administration helped make the seemingly impossible possible. The author concludes by noting that the Members have drawn on the modernity and nimbleness of the Administration to transform the way they fulfil their parliamentary responsibilities during the pandemic while honouring the history and tradition of the House of Commons.

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