Vote on new COVID-19 relief bill awaits deal on how to question ministers

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OTTAWA — A bill with new federal support measures for employers hit by COVID-19 is waiting for the parties to agree on how Parliament should work during the pandemic.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre says the Tories are ready to approve the latest measures in the House of Commons, but say they also want to see some form of question period so they can continue to hold the government accountable.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the opposition parties need to weigh in on the government’s plan to subsidize employee wages for affected businesses.

But he says it’s not fair that only parliamentarians who can easily make it to Ottawa would get to question him and ministers, so the Liberals want “virtual” meetings in the House of Commons.

Parliament has reconvened once since shutting down in March when the first wave of response measures was passed, but a new vote is needed because the Liberals’ plans for a wage-subsidy program have changed sharply since then.

The timing of a new vote has still not been decided and the Liberals have asked Speaker Anthony Rota to work on how parliamentary procedures could be honoured without in-person meetings.