Senate approves hybrid sitting model
Senators who are unable to travel to Ottawa will be able to participate in Senate sittings virtually as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
The Senate has adopted a plan for hybrid sittings to begin as soon as possible, allowing Senators physically present in the chamber and those participating virtually to debate, ask questions and vote.
“Balancing health and safety, including complying with provincial and territorial regulations, is an important consideration for Senators as they discharge their Parliamentary duties,” said Senator Marc Gold, the Government Representative in the Senate. “Hybrid sittings will help ensure Senators can fully participate in proceedings even if they are unable to travel across this vast country during the second wave of the pandemic.”
Highlights of the hybrid sittings include that senators participating by videoconference:
- must use a computer and headphones with an integrated microphone provided by the Senate — and not personal devices;
- must have their video on and broadcasting their image at all times – logging off the videoconference if they leave their seats with the exception of the period when bells are ringing for a vote; and
- are not required to stand when speaking or voting.
Under the approved model, senators participating virtually will hold up a card during standing votes. The voting process would begin with senators voting “yay” in the chamber, followed by senators voting with the established “yay” card by videoconference. Senators voting “nay” would follow in the same way, and finally senators who are abstaining.
In recognition of senators participating virtually from coast to coast in Canada’s different time zones, as well as public health considerations, the sitting times have been adjusted as follows (all times EST):
- Mondays will begin at 6 p.m. and end no later than the end of Government business or 9 p.m.;
- Tuesdays and Thursdays will begin at the usual 2 p.m. and end no later than 9 p.m.;
- Wednesdays will begin at the usual 2 p.m., and end no later than the end of Government business or 4 p.m., in anticipation of potential committee meetings; and
- Fridays will begin at 10 a.m. rather than 9 a.m., and end no later than the end of Government business or 4 p.m.
Additionally, the two-hour dinner break has been condensed to one hour.
Senator Gold thanked Senate Administration for the hard work done so far in preparing for hybrid sittings, including recent rehearsals to test how business can be best conducted. Senator Gold also thanked Senate leadership – as well as all Senators – for their ongoing collaboration during this challenging pandemic period.
The first hybrid sitting will be held on November 3, 2020.