‘You have to show up:’ NDP MP questions virtual attendance of Alberta Tories

‘You have to show up:’ NDP MP questions virtual attendance of Alberta Tories

NDP MP McPherson says she’s disappointed Tory MPs haven’t been participating in virtual meetings

EDMONTON — Alberta’s only non-Conservative member of Parliament says she’s disappointed some of the province’s Tory MPs haven’t been participating in virtual House of Commons special COVID-19 committee meetings.

The Commons, which had largely been adjourned since mid-March to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, initially only met to pass emergency aid legislation and to come to a new agreement on how the chamber should function.

In late May, the New Democrats joined forces with the governing Liberals to waive normal proceedings for another four months and continue with an expanded version of a special COVID-19 committee that has acted as a stand-in for the chamber.

Both Conservative and Bloc Quebecois MPs voted against the virtual sittings because they wanted more parliamentary oversight.

There have been 14 of the new hybrid sessions since the change at the end of May, but a tally by the NDP shows the average attendance for Conservative members from Alberta was about 42 per cent the number was confirmed by The Canadian Press through online minutes.

NDP MP Heather McPherson, who represents Edmonton Strathcona, has attended all the online meetings and said she doesn’t understand why other Alberta politicians aren’t participating.

“I’m a little shocked,” she said in an interview this week. “It feels to me like Alberta MPs, more than any MPs in the rest of the country, need to be fighting for Albertans.

“We need all the help we can get.”

Of the 33 Alberta Conservative MPs, none has attended all 14 meetings. About a dozen have attended more than half, and four haven’t participated at all.

Len Webber, who represents the Calgary Confederation riding and is also chairman of the Alberta Conservative caucus, said the attendance numbers were news to him.

“I get on when I can,” he said.

The meeting minutes posted online show Webber attended two of the special COVID-19 meetings early on in the pandemic and hasn’t participated in any since the May 26 change.

Other politicians who haven’t attended any of the last 14 meetings are Calgary Heritage MP Bob Benzen, Edmonton Riverbend MP and health critic Matt Jeneroux and Calgary Signal Hill MP Ron Liepert.

Webber said it’s not a boycott by the Conservatives. He suggested many members — including himself — are busy with other meetings. He’s on the health committee, for example, and online minutes show that he’s attended all of those meetings.

There are also regular Zoom calls with other members to prepare for meetings and ongoing constituency issues to address, he said.

“There are good reasons why some MPs can’t attend.”

Webber questioned whether the attendance numbers were accurate.

He added that there’s only so many questions that can be asked by MPs at the special COVID-19 committee meetings.

“There are certainly Alberta MPs who ask questions,” he said. “They are there representing their constituents.”

McPherson said the NDP voted to have the hybrid meetings so every member had the opportunity to participate in Parliament and represent their constituents.

“We were able to ask questions,” she said.

A previous restriction that prevented MPs from asking questions on issues other than the pandemic was one of the changes made at the end of May.

McPherson said she has asked about worker safety at the Cargill meat-packing plant in southern Alberta, help for people with disabilities and support for Alberta’s small businesses that weren’t qualifying for government assistance during the pandemic.

She suggested there’s also value in hearing other issues politicians are raising.

McPherson said she’s particularly surprised that some of her fellow Alberta MPs didn’t attend at all, as people across the province are going through a difficult time.

“I’m really happy to work with anyone from any party … but you have to show up,” she said.

McPherson admitted the current system isn’t perfect, but said it’s a good compromise that helps contain the spread of COVID-19 by preventing people from flying to Ottawa from all over Canada for in-person sessions.

“We couldn’t do business as usual.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The newly built Parkland Regional Library Services. (Photo Submitted)
Parkland Regional Library system moves into new offices in Lacombe

“Someone with a Parkland Library card can borrow from 350 libraries in Alberta,” Ron Sheppard

boating stock metro
New owners of public boat launch on Sylvan Lake plans opening for May 2021

The Launch at Sylvan Lake is located at 5220 Lakeshore Dr.

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19.  (File photo)
750 new COVID-19 cases identified in Alberta Sunday

Central zone currently has 1,182 active cases of the virus

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveres to Canada are being delayed because of complications at their European distribution facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Delays of Pfizer vaccine delivery to impact Alberta’s vaccination plans

Alberta has administered 74,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Lacombe is looking at its options for reclaiming sewage lagoons that are no longer needed. Vesta Energy Ltd. has signed a deal to use three lagoons to store water for fracking.
Map from City of Lacombe
Energy company to use former Lacombe sewage lagoons to store water for fracking

Vesta Energy Ltd. will pay Lacombe more than $100,000 a year in 20-year deal

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Monday that11 more people had died from COVID-19, bringing the province’s death toll to 1,447. (Photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Eleven more Albertans die from COVID-19

There were 739 people in hospital, 120 in ICU on Monday

Indigenous people gather for a ceremony for Cindy Gladue held at the courthouse in Edmonton, Alta, on Wednesday, January 13, 2021. Bradley Barton, a 52-year-old long-haul truck driver from Ontario on trial for manslaughter, is accused of killing Gladue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
People stand in support of mother as new trial gets underway in death of Cindy Gladue

Bradley Barton, a long-haul truck driver from Ontario, will now be tried for manslaughter in the 2011 death

(Photo submitted)
RCMP say ice climber seriously injured after reportedly falling 12 metres near Abraham Lake

Police say man’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening

U.S. military units march in front of the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 in Washington, as they rehearse for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S.

President Donald Trump won’t be there to hear it

Facebook/ The Open Door 24/7 Integrated Response Hub- Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin residents show support for 24/7 Integrated Response Hub

Wetaskiwin residents and City Council members showed support for Hub with positive signs.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

Most Read