‘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

robbery
UPDATE: Suspect identified in early morning shooting

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Many rural municipalities were concerned about a proposed reduction to their industrial revenues, but Alberta’s Municipal Affairs minister has come up with an alternative solution. (Photo contributed)
Province and rural municipalities agree on a plan to support Alberta’s energy industry

Creating new wells or pipelines would result in a three year ‘tax holiday’

The influenza vaccine will be available at no cost starting Monday in Alberta. “The more that we can avoid influenza-related tests, emergency visits and hospitalizations, the stronger our system will be to support those with COVID-19 and all other health needs," says Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Hinshaw urges Albertans to get flu shot as COVID cases jump by 332

Alberta’s central zone now has 132 active COVID-19 cases

Conservative member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre speaks during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals say Tory effort to set up COVID-19 committee will be a confidence matter

The Tories were originally proposing an ‘anticorruption’ committee

(The Canadian Press)
Alberta-raised Cree actor lands role in Disney’s live-action ‘Peter Pan and Wendy’

Tiger Lily is featured in Disney’s 1953 animated “Peter Pan” film

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday February 4, 2020 in Ottawa. The Alberta government is welcoming news that Ottawa has approved an expansion of the Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. gathering system in Alberta — while condemning federal delays that it says cost this summer’s construction season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta welcomes federal approval of gas pipeline expansion while criticizing delay

Pipeline division owned by Calgary-based TC Energy Corp. will now be required to restore 3,840 hectares of caribou habitat,

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

Alberta Premier Jason Kenny and government house leader Jason Nixon chat before the speech from the throne delivered in Edmonton, Alta., on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Alberta politicians are to return to the legislature Tuesday with a plan to discuss up to 20 new bills — many of which are focused on the province’s economic recovery. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta legislature to resume Tuesday; focus to be on economic recovery

Opposition house leader Heather Sweet said the NDP will focus on holding Premier Jason Kenney

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Executive Director of Agape Kate Halas (left) receives $1000 from Sgt. Eric Christensen (right) on behalf of Agape. Photo/ Shaela Dansereau.
Former Wetaskiwin Peace Officer wins provincial award; gives back to Wetaskiwin community

Eric Christensen has won the Alberta Association of Community Peace Officers Award of Excellence.

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Alberta government photo)
Big boost for Alberta college agriculture research

The $2-million agreement to benefit Lethbridge College’s applied research team

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Canadian couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Most Read