Gateway Gazette

Parliament is Essential and MPs are Essential Workers

Parliament is an essential pillar in our democracy and Members of Parliament are essential workers meaning we should be in Ottawa representing our constituents in a fully functional House of Commons.

Last week I returned to Ottawa to participate in the in-person debate fighting to have Parliament return and was angered to stand in the House with my Conservative colleagues and see the Liberals and NDP vote to ignore our cherished democracy.
The House of Commons was suspended in March, and rightly so to protect the health and safety of Canadians. Although the House recently began a handful of committee meetings virtually, this is in no way a replacement for what Parliament can and must do to serve Canadians going forward.

I was elected by the constituents of Foothills to represent you in Ottawa, to be your voice in the House of Commons, and to be in Parliament.

It is misleading by the Liberal government to say we are in a virtual Parliament, because we are not. This is not Parliament. Vital tools and procedures are severely limited. For example, no opposition day motions, no legislation outside of COVID-19, and the majority of committees, including Natural Resources, are not meeting. The Liberals have not tabled a budget, a fiscal update and have only allocated four hours to study and debate more than $150 billion worth of new spending.

This is not how our democracy is supposed to work. Opposition parties provide vital oversight and hold the government accountable.

To be clear, no one is suggesting all 338 Members of Parliament be present in the House of Commons. However, my Conservative colleagues and I strongly believe we can do our jobs in the House while still respecting public health guidelines.

This is not a partisan issue. This is about whether or not a democratic country like Canada should have a functional Parliament especially during a crisis.
It comes down to holding the government to account. We cannot have an ongoing process of doing government by press conference.

Unfortunately, the other parties don’t seem to understand what is at stake. Every Liberal, New Democrat and Green MP who voted to prevent our democracy will have to be held accountable on election day.

Justin Trudeau is focused on replacing Parliament with press conferences. He wants an audience, not an Opposition. That is absolutely unacceptable.

I know my constituents are sick and tired of the Prime Minister coming out of the cottage every morning to make his announcements before escaping back in without facing the scrutiny of the Opposition or the public.
Albertans want some accountability. You deserve accountability.

However, the NDP propped up the Liberals and have allowed the Prime Minister to use this crisis as an excuse to undermine the role of Parliament and avoid oversight and transparency.

Parliament is an essential service and Members of Parliament are essential workers.

We have a vital role to play and we should be allowed to do that critical work in the House of Commons.

This summer will be one of continued record unemployment, increasing federal debt, and no economic recovery plans. There is work to be done to get us through this crisis. From Foothills, I will continue to help my constituents and hold the Liberals accountable until our return to Ottawa in September.

We have been asking residents here in Foothills, and Canadians across the country, to go to work each day. So too must the House of Commons.

John Barlow
Member of Parliament, Foothills

Watch my speech in the House of Commons here

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