Traditional workplaces that might never have considered allowing their employees to work from home were suddenly forced to do so. Meetings and conferences once believed to be necessary in person had to shift online. Even financial and legal documents had to adapt to online signatures.
Column: A hybrid Parliament can strengthen diverse representation in Canada Back to video
So, this prompts the question, why should members of Parliament be required to fly to Ottawa to partake in parliamentary business? If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that doing things one way because that’s how we’ve always done them isn’t always the most efficient approach. It’s certainly not reflective of our new reality.
Our parliamentarians have an opportunity to continue to demonstrate leadership from the top, allowing MPs to participate in Question Period, votes, committee meetings and caucus meetings virtually if their personal schedules demand it and professional schedules allow it.
The House of Commons did some extraordinary work to adapt to health regulations put in place due to the pandemic. It took a lot of study, consultation and effort to shift policies that had not seen much procedural change since Confederation. It also took a major investment in technology to ensure that members were able to participate safely in conversations and effectively represent their constituencies, just as they would do if they were in person on Parliament Hill.
With all of this learning and technology now in place, why would our federally elected officials take a step back? Why would we shelve this 21st-century approach to governing and insist that people must be present in person if they want to take part?
It doesn’t make sense at the best of times, but it is particularly baffling now, when we must focus on encouraging diversity, equity and inclusion at every level. Our job is to make people — especially those who have traditionally been marginalized — feel that they’re part of the decision-making process, not still stuck on the sidelines.
Like all Canadians, MPs wear many hats. A good number are moms and dads; some of them are caring for sick loved ones or aging parents; others are living in remote or northern regions. The traditional model of Parliament sees our MPs attempting to balance all of these personal commitments with their duty of travelling back and forth to Ottawa for large portions of the year. It’s a model that stretches people thin, and there’s a reason divorce rates for MPs are so high.
The other critical component of this discussion is that a hybrid House may influence more women to run for politics.
Ask any woman who has been asked to run for Parliament what held her back from raising her hand and she’ll likely tell you that spending a significant amount of her life travelling to and from Ottawa during the week, then coming home to a jam-packed weekend of constituency events and meetings, was not conducive to a healthy, happy family life.
Of course, there are roadblocks. Access to broadband internet is not assured in many communities; cyber security is an ongoing concern; and an MP participating remotely must be assured of the same access and opportunity as someone in-person.
This content was originally published here.