By Myrna Driedger
Published in the Canstar Metro and Headliner March 26, 2021
This past year has been challenging in so many ways, including how legislative duties are conducted at the Manitoba legislature. The House recently resumed sitting and what that looks like now is so very different from what it looked like pre-COVID. These changes happened rapidly over a short period of time.
As Speaker of the Manitoba Legislature, it fell to me to protect the health and safety of all MLAs while ensuring full parliamentary representation and accountability. In order to do this, many changes to proceedings were undertaken, including physical distancing measures in the chamber and engaging virtual options for carrying out the business of the assembly.
This was a massive undertaking and I want to thank the team behind the scenes, including the many technical assistants, clerks and administrative helpers who worked tirelessly over the summer and fall of 2020 and who continue to support these changes. Because of them, the Manitoba Legislative Assembly has been able to meet in a hybrid of in-person and virtual settings.
Adapting to this hybrid model has been a cultural shift in this 150-year-old institution, especially one that is not known for accepting rapid change easily. Despite some technical glitches here and there, I am pleased to say that the transition has been a wonderful solution to an unprecedented challenge. As time goes on and members become more comfortable with this technology, I’ve had to say "if the member would please unmute" far less.
This accomplishment places the Manitoba Legislature as the leader in Canada in technological accommodations for legislative business. While the federal government and other provinces have gone down a similar route for their House sittings, we are the only jurisdiction to successfully conduct three hybrid sittings from three different rooms simultaneously as is required during estimates.
Unfortunately, this pandemic and the necessary limitations we are living with will persist into 2021. We cannot know when we will be able to return to life as it had been. We do know, however, that the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, our democratic institution, will not be impeded. Your representatives will continue to advocate for our communities in the House as the session resumes, albeit in a new way. I thank all the Manitoba Legislative Assembly staff who have helped to make these hybrid technological and in person sessions possible.
Watch question period live.