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First-time MPs get first taste of their new jobs

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OTTAWA — Newly-elected MPs caught a first glimpse of what their new roles in Ottawa will entail, participating in the initial phase of the House of Commons orientation program on Monday.

The first 10 of the 52 new members elected to the House of Commons last week came to Parliament Hill to attend the introductory session, fill out the necessary paperwork, set up their official devices, and learn more about what their new jobs will include.

For the first time, the orientation program is being hosted both virtually and in-person due to the enduring pandemic. Of the 42 MPs that have so far registered, only six have opted to participate online.

On their first day, members took a tour of the West Block and visit the House of Commons’ chamber.

The second day of orientation will focus on their managerial duty as MPs, including information on human resources and staffing, as well as financial accounting and disclosure. The House of Commons is also offering training sessions on workplace harassment and violence prevention.

Closer to the opening of Parliament — which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has still not set a date for– MPs have the opportunity to pick the brains of their more experienced colleagues.

“It’s good to have colleagues coming to talk to their newer colleagues about work-life balance, how to set up an office, what to look for in a good assistant, that sort of thing…It’s typically a very well received session,” Jean-Philippe Brochu, co-chair of the Members’ Orientation Program, said during a briefing with reporters.

The new Parliament will see a large contingent of returning MPs, with 286 incumbents elected in the Sept. 20 federal election.

Officials noted on Monday that the 44th Parliament, like the last, could involve a hybrid of in-person and virtual participation, but it will be up to MPs to ultimately decide the structure of the fall session.

“There are likely going to be discussions between parties and it’s up to members to decide what they want to do with their proceedings when Parliament opens,” said Brochu, adding that the same technology used last Parliament to accommodate those virtually is being offered again.

After months of ad-hoc emergency meetings in the early days of the pandemic to pass pressing COVID-19 aid and nothing else, all sides eventually agreed on a hybrid sitting format that allowed MPs to virtually vote and participate from their homes or offices and still appear, via screens, inside the chamber where a small number of usually nearby MPs participated in-person.

Introduced before the mass immunization effort allowed all eligible Canadians to roll up their sleeves to receive the additional protection against the novel coronavirus, the hybrid-sitting format was intended to be a temporary solution.

The last agreement allowing these sittings expired when the House of Commons adjourned in June.

Information about whether parliamentarians will have to be vaccinated in order to be present in the Chamber, or around the parliamentary precinct hasn’t yet been detailed by the House of Commons’ Board of Internal Economy — the cross-party committee of MPs that oversees the workings of the House.

However, the board has extended the mask mandate to until at least Oct. 29.

Along the election campaign trail, the Liberals and NDP confirmed all their candidates were vaccinated, while the Conservatives refused to say.

Brochu said that necessary public health safeguards like physical distancing, masking, and screening are in place for the orientation sessions.

With files from CTV News’ Rachel Aiello

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