I am writing to set the record straight regarding Scott Hayes' July 15 article regarding my “attendance” at the House of Commons COVID-19 Committee. Key material facts were omitted from the article.
Since March 13, the House of Commons has been effectively shut down by the Liberals with the support of the NDP. In its place is something called the COVID-19 Committee, a poor substitute for the House of Commons.
The COVID-19 Committee has held both in-person and virtual sittings. This was omitted from Hayes’ article, which focused exclusively on the virtual sittings.
Being relatively young and in good health, I volunteered to travel to Ottawa to attend in-person sittings. There, I had an opportunity to pose questions to ministers on COVID matters. As of the likely timing of the publication of this letter, I will be in Ottawa at another in-person sitting.
With respect to participation in the virtual sittings, the Conservative leadership team gave priority to MPs who could not travel to Ottawa, including MPs who are older in age, have underlying health conditions, have family members with such conditions or who reside in provinces that have mandatory 14-day quarantine periods for residents who travel out of province.
I was assigned to participate in in-person sittings, whereas other MPs were assigned to participate in virtual sittings. In both instances, there are limited slots for Conservatives to ask questions. The Conservative leadership team tried to provide all 121 Conservative MPs with an equal opportunity to participate whether in-person or in a virtual capacity. The foregoing is omitted from Hayes’ article. Instead, Hayes leaves the impression that I attended only two virtual sittings without mentioning my participation in Ottawa.
What constitutes “attendance” at a virtual COVID-19 Committee meeting? Apparently, logging in to the meeting and watching it on my computer rather than on television. After logging in twice, I found it more productive to watch the questions and answers of other MPs on television in background while I did other work. This included preparing for, attending and participating at Finance Committee meetings, which were tasked with reviewing COVID programs. The Finance Committee is one of the few Committees the Liberals and NDP did not shut down. The Committee met twice a week for four-hour hearings from late March to early July. These hearings provided me with an opportunity that most MPs did not have to ask questions and hold the Liberals to account on COVID.
Thanks to the Liberals and NDP, more than 40 sitting days of the House of Commons have been cancelled, the vast majority of Committees have not been meeting, and Private Members’ Bills – including a Bill that I am sponsoring on mental health – have been stalled. All of this illustrates what a poor substitute the COVID-19 Committee is for the House of Commons.
In this unprecedented time, I have used every opportunity available to me to participate at the COVID-19 Committee, and at the Finance Committee. I will continue to work hard on behalf of the residents of St. Albert-Edmonton.
Michael Cooper, St. Albert-Edmonton MP