Government to launch benefit-finder tool for emergency aid as parties spar over return of Parliament

The government will launch an online tool today to help Canadians navigate the various financial benefits available during the pandemic, as the political parties continue to spar over the resumption of Parliament.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to provide details about the benefit-finder tool during a daily briefing that’s set to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET today. will carry it live.

Minister of Digital Government Joyce Murray will also provide more details on the benefit tool today.

The Conservatives are pushing for a return to normal functions on Monday while respecting public health guidelines on physical distancing with a reduced number of MPs.

According to the Government House Leader’s office, negotiations are ongoing, and no agreement has been reached between the parties.

The Conservatives have given notice of a motion they will table next week that outlines their position, stating that the House of Commons should be considered an “essential service” and noting that MPs have previously sat during wars, pandemics, economic depressions and national unity challenges.

It calls on the whips of the political parties to determine the maximum number of members present in the chamber at any given time, with the goal of accommodating about 50 MPs at once.

It says the whips should also come up with a plan for voting, as well as way for all committees to hold virtual meetings with the same powers they have during in-person meetings.

Adjourned since March

The House has been adjourned since March because of the global pandemic, resuming only to pass legislation to enable financial emergency benefits to flow.

A special committee, which includes all 338 MPs, has been formed to deal only with matters related to COVID-19. Recently, that committee has been meeting twice a week virtually and in-person on Wednesdays.

According to the House Speaker’s office, there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 linked to in-person House sittings or committee meetings to date.

A small number of suspected and confirmed cases have been monitored in the last nine weeks, the majority of which are of individuals who have not been in the workplace. 

“Any suspected case of COVID-19 within the House of Commons community is monitored very closely, in keeping with a protocol established based on advice from public health officials,” said spokesperson Heather Bradley.

“This protocol also covers communicating with those who may have been in contact with individuals with suspected or confirmed cases.”

Additional cleaning, sanitizing in place

Preventative measures are in place in the House of Commons precinct, including:

  • The cleaning of high-traffic areas has been increased to three times per day, including entrances, elevators and handrails.
  • A special COVID-19 cleaning and disinfecting service has been implemented for suspected and confirmed cases for those individuals who would have been in the workplace.
  • Additional hand-sanitizing stations have been installed and sanitizing wipes are provided to front-line personnel.
  • Plexiglass screens have been installed in areas where physical distancing options are not always possible.
  • Signage with public health recommendations has been installed in various locations.

Bradley said normal service levels are not required for recent sittings of the House or committee meetings. Employees are teleworking wherever possible and are only reporting to work on-site if requested to by their manager. Disposable, non-medical masks are available to anyone working on site.

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