New Brunswick.

AuthorMcCleave, John-Patrick

The Third Session of the 59th Legislature adjourned on March 13 following the outbreak of Covid-19. The House conducted two brief sittings with only a quorum present on March 17 and April 17 to pass legislation before resuming from May 26 to June 18. For precautionary reasons, the House did not sit the first week of June after an outbreak of the virus occurred in a northern region of the province.

Modified Chamber

Various physical and web-based options were considered prior to the resumption of the session on May 26. Ultimately, the Legislative Administration Committee agreed that the House continue sitting with all Members present in the Chamber, a decision that was ratified by unanimous consent of the House. The House also adopted a sessional calendar stipulating that the House only sit three days per week, for a maximum of four hours each day.

Alterations were required in order to provide 2-metre distancing in the Chamber. The number of desks were reduced from 49 to 28. Desks were now assigned to the parties and not to individual Members, although the independent Member retained a desk. The Members not assigned a desk on a specific sitting day were seated in the gallery where they also maintained the 2-metre distancing. These Members were permitted to vote from the gallery and participate in debate using one of two stationary microphones.

The Clerks table was reconfigured to permit only two of the three Clerks to be seated at the table.

Modified Proceedings

Proceedings were essentially paperless. Prior to a Bill being introduced, the Executive Council Office provided an electronic copy of the Bill to the Clerk's Office, who then forwarded the Bill to Members and staff upon introduction. Paper copies of petitions and Notices of Motions were no longer delivered by Pages to the Speaker. The documents remained on the Member's desk and were collected after the sitting. Pages were no longer permitted in the Chamber.

The use of electronic devices by Members in the Chamber was permitted during proceedings, provided they did not create a disturbance. Clerks and Members were connected to the Speaker electronically via a chat function on their devices. During committee work, Ministers consulted with their staff using video chat or cellular phones. Framed transparent dividers were also installed in the Chamber, if it was necessary for the Minister and staff to speak directly.

The building remained closed to the public and press. Media scrums were...

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