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Rachel Blaney among MPs working to implement virtual parliament

Enourmous challenge, but should be possible thanks to technology: Blaney
North Island – Powell River MP Rachel Blaney speaks during question and comment period in the House of Commons in this June 28, 2018 screenshot. Blaney is on the Standing Committee on House Procedure and Affairs, which will meet to discuss implementing a virtual sitting of Parliament.

A Vancouver Island MP’s role within her party remains as important as ever.

In addition to being the North Island–Powell River representative in Ottawa, Rachel Blaney is also the NDP’s party whip.

She’s leading her party on accountability measures and the role Parliament will play during the COVID-19 pandemic, all from her home on Canada’s West Coast.

“Accountability is important for every government, but even more so during these unprecedented times. We asked for committees to meet during the crisis, and the finance and health committees are already doing that to evaluate the government’s response,” she said. “In these fast changing times, committees and conversations with ministers lead to changes in programming that gets help out to more people.”

Following the introduction and acceptance of the unanimous consent motion in the House of Commons on April 11, Blaney and the other members of the Standing Committee on House Procedure and Affairs will be meeting regularly to talk about a virtual sitting of Parliament.

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It may be more difficult to implement in Canada than in other places thanks to unique factors like broadcasting in both official languages at the same time and internet connectivity, depending on where MPs live, said Blaney.

“The challenges with a virtual sitting are enormous, but with today’s technology it should be possible,” she said. “Public Health is telling Canadians we cannot be travelling or even leaving our homes frequently. I hope members of Parliament are leaders in this and not travelling across Canada like they normally would.”

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Blaney said her biggest priority will be ensuring the government is held accountable to rural and remote communities.

“With MPs who are already near Ottawa being prioritized for meeting in the House for public health reasons, we have to make sure that the voices of MPs who live further away aren’t lost. The constituents of North Island - Powell River are my top priority and I’m looking forward to finding new ways to bring their voices to the federal government,” she said. “We’re all stressed out right now and I think it’s really important to remember to be kind to one another and while we’re all living through this, I just want to remind everyone to stay safe. We’ve seen some preliminary success here in B.C. and we need to keep it up. Every time you decide to stay home you could be saving someone else’s life.”

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