House of Commons shutting down to limit spread of COVID-19
The House of Commons has agreed to suspend its sitting until April 20, shutting down parliamentary business in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic on Parliament Hill. Conservative Whip Mark Strahl announced the cross-party agreement on Friday morning. He said that parties have agreed to suspend Parliament while ensuring the government has the ability to provide necessary financial supports.
The motion includes an agreement that the House of Commons will pass the new NAFTA deal and the current interim supply funds, before suspending. The agreement will allow the government to spend money to address the novel coronavirus, and potentially address an economic downturn, with oversight. The suspension, set to last five weeks, is currently being discussed in the House. The length of time away could be extended if necessary, and in the interim, House of Commons committees can be recalled if needed. This move means the federal budget, scheduled to be tabled on March 30, will be delayed.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to address Canadians at some point today, from his self-isolation at Rideau Cottage after his wife Sophie tested positive for COVID-19 late Thursday. Trudeau is going to be in self-isolation for the next 14 days, alongside his family, but will be continuing his duties, according to his office. The federal cabinet met early Friday morning on Parliament Hill. On her way in, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that Trudeau is following public health advice.
Deliberations between political leaders and House officials have been ongoing for days concerning suspending the House, or if additional precautions including more cleaning and cancelling international travel would be sufficient. Several federal politicians are now in self-isolation, most out of an abundance of caution. Public access to the Senate has been cut off.
--with files from CTV News--