COVID-19 vaccinations dominate discussion on first day of Parliament

Monday was a busy day in the nation’s capital as Parliament resumed for the first time since this fall’s election.

A hot topic of discussion included whether or not Conservative MPs will fully comply with the new rules around the House of CommonsCOVID-19 vaccinations.

A speaker was also elected.

The day began with a climate change rally in front of the Prime Minister’s Office.

About 100 activists braved the cold to let the Liberal government know they expect movement on climate change in the upcoming Parliament.

Speakers said they were unimpressed with the government’s performance at the recent COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

Bryanna Brown, who is Inuk and Mi’kmaq from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, spoke on behalf of Indigenous Climate Action.

She says the summit was not a friendly place for Indigenous voices overall.

“It was more so performative,” Brown says. “Where people were more so making more distractions than finding real solutions. Because I found that we were very excluded from the decision-making areas within COP.”

The minority Liberal government says it wants to work with all opposition parties to pass legislation, including the Conservatives.

But the government is questioning the potential use of medical exemptions by Conservative MPs on COVID-19 vaccinations to attend the session rather than being fully vaccinated.

“Let’s be frank,” Liberal House Leader Mark Holland says. “From the chief medical health officers of health, the likelihood that you have a medical exemption from vaccination is one to five in 100,000. The Conservative caucus is 119 people. Statistically, the likelihood that they would have multiple people who are exempt on that basis is extraordinarily low.

“There might be some possibility of it but I suppose there’s a possibility that chair could fly.”

COVID-19 vaccinations
Liberal House Leader Mark Holland. Photo: Fraser Needham/APTN.

The NDP says it will work with the Liberals on legislation on a case-by-case basis.

However, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says a formal accord between the two parties is off the table.

“When it comes to the pandemic supports, we have seen that this government’s taken an approach to cut help to people,” he says. “And if they want to hurt people and if they’re going to bring in laws that will make it harder on folks, then they can go to the Conservatives or the Bloc for support.

“But I will be voting against something that makes life worse for people. So, there will be things where we agree.”

Seven candidates contested the election for speaker of the House of Commons.

In the end, it was northern Ontario Liberal MP Anthony Rota who won out.

It will be his second term as speaker.

Parliament resumes Tuesday with the Speech from the Throne that will be delivered by Governor General Mary Simon.

APTN News will carry the speech live starting at 1 p.m. ET.

Late Monday afternoon, the Trudeau government also announced $4.4 million in assistance to First Nations communities struggling to cope with recent mass flooding in British Columbia.

In a government press release, Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu says the money will be flowed through the Emergency Management Assistance Program.

The government says the money will go to the British Columbia First Nations’ Emergency Services Society.

An additional $330,000 in federal government funds will go to First Nations Leadership Council to help with flood relief.

This money will be split evenly amongst its partner organizations – the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.

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