Making the case for a virtual Parliament

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Happening Now Monday, May 04, 2020 View Count = 380

Making the case for a virtual Parliament

If my recent stream of conversations over webcam and across the front lawn is any indication, Canadians have begun to realize that COVID-19 will be a marathon, not a sprint. We will need to adjust our society and lives to a new reality, one that likely won’t see us travelling or meeting in large groups for quite some time.

For Samara Centre staff, our main focus since the pandemic reached Canada’s shores has been ensuring that the democratic principles of scrutiny, representation, and accountability are maintained—and how to best do that when legislators can’t meet in person.

As part of our ongoing Democracy Monitor series, you may have seen our reports on Parliament’s passing of emergency measures and how parliaments in other countries are adapting to the crisis.

Our new report looks into the future, at how our democratic institutions can adjust to the long-term absence of our federal, provincial, and local representatives.

Last week saw 294 Members of Parliament convene virtually for the first session of the Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic, which will meet in one physical and two virtual sittings each week through the adjournment until May 25th. While most parliamentary committees have just 12 members, all 338 MPs have been appointed to the COVID-19 committee, which will perform a vital accountability function.

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But this doesn’t mean Canada’s Parliament has gone virtual. For now, all the most important decisions will still be debated and voted on in person, by a small group MPs who are generally senior or close-at-hand.

In this report, we explain the current situation and lay out guiding principles and next steps towards a virtual Parliament. We make the case that a hybrid model, where all MPs are able to participate in legislative debates—online or in person—is likely the best option to get us through this unique time. We also recommend a move towards online voting, addressing security issues proactively. Read the report now.

blue-10.png  Now streaming

In addition to our Democracy Monitor reports, we have also begun hosting online events.

In our first interactive webinar, we brought together Dr. Cristina Leston-Bandeira, from the University of Leeds, and our very own Dr. Paul EJ Thomas for a timely discussion on virtual parliaments. Watch the video on YouTube or Facebook.

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And if you were looking forward to our book tour this spring, check out our latest webinar featuring Real House Lives editor and co-author Mike Morden in conversation with interns from the Parliamentary Internship Programme. It’s available on YouTube and Facebook.


  Samara in the media

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blue-10.png  Samara’s recommended reading

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Stay safe,

Kendall Anderson
Executive Director

On the Samara BlBlog logo representing the letter 'o'g