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Canadian Parliament suspended amid COVID-19 outbreak

MPs to miss two actual sitting weeks on top of three planned spring break weeks

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, March 15, 2020
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking with CTV's Question Period from self-isolation at Rideau Cottage on Sunday, March 15. (CTV News)

Sunday March 15, 2020 ~ NATIONAL

Parliament has been suspended until April 20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as voted upon Friday March 13 in the House of Commons.

There are now over 340 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection in Canada (as of tonight March 15), including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Trudeau is self-isolating and running the country from home.

Trudeau has so far done two televised media appearances outdoors in front of his home, and his office reports out on the many phone calls he is having with world leaders, provincial first ministers of Canada, and his own Cabinet and COVID-19 Incident Response Group. For his TV appearance today he affixed his own lapel microphone, to avoid contact with any TV crew (given that he is living with his wife who is in quarantine).

All parties agreed to the move to suspend parliament in an effort to do their part to help slow the spread of the outbreak. Canada’s 338 Members of Parliament sit in close proximity to one another in the House of Commons and also shake hands with hundreds of people every day in their constituencies.

MPs had previously already planned to be away next week, as well as for two weeks next month, so the suspension means they will miss two actual sitting weeks.

This closing of Parliament and the many swirling actions that are effectively shutting down society across the country has a wartime-like urgency to it, creeping up on us slowly to this point but likely to ramp up this week.

A major financial stimulus package is to be announced by Finance Minister Bill Morneau this week to apparently help businesses and consumers. This past week he rolled out $1 billion, half of which was for Provinces to boost their health care system needs and the other half for Employment Insurance underpinning (usual one-week waiting period has been waived for applicants).

And today the Chief Public Health Officer urged everyone to do their part to stem the community spread of COVID-19 including self-isolating at home as possible (or pretty much now required if returning from travel beyond Canada) and to not visit seniors or anyone with already compromised health issues (as a way to avoid spreading infection to more vulnerable persons).

There are over 153,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide as of March 15, 2020. Canada’s public health officials have been successful in ‘buying time’ before there is an upsurge in the number of infected persons in this country.