Trudeau 'heartbroken' over Nova Scotia mass shooting as House of Commons resumes

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it is “heartbreak on top of heartbreak” when families whose loved ones were killed in Nova Scotia on Sunday cannot gather to mourn because of the COVID-19 physical distancing rules.

Trudeau says it is the same heartbreak felt by thousands of other Canadians who have lost loved ones to the virus, or to cancer or other illnesses.

He says there will be a virtual vigil on Friday night for all of Canada to support the community.

Ontario is reporting 606 new cases of COVID-19, the largest single-day increase, and 31 new deaths.

Despite the large increase, the new total of 11,184 cases is just 5.7 per cent higher than the day before, continuing a relatively low growth trend.

The total includes 584 deaths and 5,515 resolved cases.

The number of people in hospital confirmed to have COVID-19 and those on a ventilator went down slightly, while the number of people in intensive care remained stable.

A small group of MPs have taken their seats in the House of Commons after the four main parties failed to reach consensus over how Parliament can and should function during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois had agreed the House of Commons could convene for a weekly in-person sitting, but the Opposition Conservatives had said that is not enough.

Absent unanimity, Parliament has gone into its normal routine, following a decision in mid-March to adjourn as the country began locking down to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Parliament has met twice since, to pass emergency aid legislation, and the Liberals, NDP and Bloc say the only reason MPs need to be physically present in the Commons now is to vote on any subsequent legislation.

The reason they proposed one sitting per week is so those votes can happen quickly, without having to reconvene an emergency session. Virtual sittings could be added later; a House of Commons committee is currently studying ways that could happen.

But Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Monday morning the debate and discussion in the House of Commons are of urgent importance.

The Liberals, he said, must answer questions on issues ranging from the state of the nation’s medical-goods stockpile to accountability for the billions of dollars being spent in federal aid.

“Conservatives continue to believe that frequent accountability sessions in Parliament get better results for Canadians,” he said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said two virtual sittings of the committee of the whole per week can accommodate other needs.

Those virtual sittings would not only minimize contact but also make sure people in regions far from Ottawa would be able to question the government.

“It’s important to hear voices from parliamentarians across this country,” Singh said.

The NDP have three MPs in Ottawa, including Singh, who say they are prepared to stay in the capital as long as necessary to reach a deal with the other parties.

Scheer was unable to say exactly how many MPs from his party would be present in the chamber.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet accused the Conservatives of holding parliament “hostage” for partisan reasons and said he wants to get to the business of serving Canadians and the people of Quebec.

The Bloc said its priorities during the next sitting of the House is to promote the needs of seniors, and the NDP cited students who will be out of work this summer as one of their top concerns.

The House of Commons is expected to spend its time Monday on deciding a work plan going forward.

The Senate has broken until at least June 2, though several committees have plans to meet virtually and the full body can be recalled if legislation needs to be passed.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2020.

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