Legislative assembly

MPs Should Vote To Require Vaccinations Inside The Legislative Assembly Chamber: Speaker


Questions about the immunization status of members of the legislature come as the NDP pushes for vaccine rules in the building, calls on Prime Minister Jason Kenney to kick unvaccinated MPs from his caucus

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The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta said he did not have the power to unilaterally impose a vaccination mandate on Members of the Legislative Assembly, but elected officials could vote to create one. he would be responsible for enforcing.

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Questions over the immunization status of members of the Legislative Assembly come as the NDP pushes for vaccine rules in the building and calls on Premier Jason Kenney to exclude unvaccinated MPs from his caucus.

In an interview with Postmedia on Friday, President Nathan Cooper said he does not create rules such as how MPs dress or behave when seated in the chamber, but that he is responsible for make sure people follow the rules in place.

“Is it possible for the assembly, which is master of its domain, to pass a motion or a temporary standing order or a standing standing order that would say, require a vaccination or a rapid test to enter the chamber?” Yes they can, ”he said.

“Right now there is nothing in our rules that would require it, and the President cannot set rules unilaterally. “

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Earlier this week, the NDP called for a meeting of the membership services committee to implement a requirement that all MPs and staff be vaccinated.

The opposition says that anyone who is not vaccinated should not be allowed in, and that MPs and employees who refuse to provide proof of vaccination would be subject to unpaid leave.

The committee can only make recommendations, Cooper said, but the assembly itself should vote to create the formal rule.

NDP Edmonton South MP Thomas Dang calls for mandatory vaccination of MPs during a press conference at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton on Friday, October 1, 2021.
NDP Edmonton South MP Thomas Dang calls for mandatory vaccination of MPs during a press conference at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton on Friday, October 1, 2021. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

The NDP is also pushing Kenney to follow Ontario and Saskatchewan, where unvaccinated MPs were told they had to leave the government caucus to sit as independents.

“It’s time to send a very clear message that if you refuse to get the vaccine, there is no room for you in the government caucus,” NDP Deputy House Leader Thomas Dang said on Friday. , adding that all 24 NDP MPs and 30 staff members had been vaccinated. .

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In a statement Friday, Kenney’s Acting Press Secretary Harrison Fleming said “the government House leader is working with the Legislature to ensure this fall session can go smoothly. security, ”but did not respond to questions about whether Kenney would be ready to kick unvaccinated. Deputies out of caucus or how many UCP deputies are currently vaccinated.

On Thursday, Kenney said the government was studying mandatory vaccinations or proof of negative tests for all MPs and staff, but added that there were constitutional issues that needed to be addressed.

“It’s a long-standing legal principle that you can’t bar an elected member from entering the chamber,” Kenney said.

Eric Adams, associate dean of the University of Alberta Law School, said the legislature is subject to parliamentary privilege which gives it the ability to define its own rules and procedures with which the courts cannot interfere .

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“I do not believe that the rules and procedures designed to ensure the security of the legislative space and in accordance with broader public health rules can be seen as undermining democracy in a way which would have any constitutional weight or merit.” , did he declare. noted.

Robert Hawkes, partner at Calgary law firm JSS Barristers, said human rights law protects an MP with a legitimate reason not to be able to get the vaccine and MPs also cannot be prevented to represent their constituents.

Either way, he said, any warrant could still go ahead if it included some form of reasonable accommodation, like appearing through Zoom or agreeing to separate those who are not vaccinated from others.

“You can raise these human rights and Charter issues and questions of parliamentary privilege while believing that society would be better off if we all got vaccinated,” he said.

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Meanwhile, Cooper says discussions are underway as to whether the legislature and the federal building will be subject to the province’s vaccine passport program requiring proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test for members of the general public. .

The justice and infrastructure departments, the sheriff’s office and the president’s office all control the different components of the buildings.

Cooper said discussions revolve around whether the ability to visit the buildings is considered “essential,” thereby exempting them from the passport program.

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Twitter.com / ashleyjoannou

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