Bloc caucus in isolation after staffer tests positive for COVID-19
OTTAWA -- Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and his entire caucus have entered self-isolation after an employee in Blanchet’s office tested positive for COVID-19.
According to a statement from the party, Blanchet and the other 31 Bloc MPs will be tested and are taking the required public health precautions, and will continue all work virtually.
The confirmed case comes just days after the group gathered for an in-person caucus meeting.
“Rest assured that we are taking this situation very seriously,” said Bloc Québécois spokesperson Carolane Landry in the statement.
The caucus is quarantining just a week before Parliament is scheduled to reconvene for a series of key debates and votes following the Liberals' Sept. 23 throne speech.
So far, the parties have yet to come to an agreement on how the business of the House of Commons will be conducted due to the ongoing pandemic. Over the course of the last six months prior to prorogation, it has sat in a truncated and sometimes hybrid setting, with some MPs participating virtually through Zoom.
However, there has yet to be an agreement on changing the rules of the House to allow for remote voting, which pending the caucus receiving negative tests results prior to the first week of the session, could become a more pressing issue if multiple Bloc MPs are still in isolation.
Speaking with reporters on Monday afternoon from the Liberal cabinet retreat in Ottawa before the case impacting the Bloc Quebecois was reported, Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez said based on the talks he’s had with his counterparts so far, the Bloc and NDP caucuses are supportive of resuming some form of a condensed sitting schedule.
“We can’t be 338 in the same room, so we have to find a way to vote which is the critical part here,” he said.
The Liberals have suggested a hybrid model that would allow for both in-person and virtual voting to occur, which if approved would be a historic first for Parliament, that comes with a series of logistical, procedural, and security questions.
While traditionally all sides should be on board with any House of Commons rules changes, Rodriguez said there is a path that the Liberals could take to set the new way of doing business through a regular motion requiring only a majority of the votes to pass.
Throughout the pandemic the Conservatives have been critical of the government’s approach to Parliament, accusing them of dodging accountability, and calling for as close to a normal resumption of House sittings as the current health measures would allow.