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Parliament suspended amid COVID-19 outbreak, marking unprecedented moment in Canadian history

Last Updated Mar 13, 2020 at 8:31 am PDT

FILE - Parliament Hill in Ottawa is pictured on October 29, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Parliament has been suspended until April 20 amid the COVID-19 outbreak

Canadian lawmakers are set to approve the new NAFTA deal as part of measures to shut down Parliament on Friday

The federal budget will be presented at a later date, not on March 30 as was previously announced

OTTAWA – It’s an unprecedented moment for Canada. Parliament has been suspended until April 20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This comes as more Canadian cases are confirmed, and follows Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s self-isolation after his wife tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

All parties have agreed to the move in an effort to do their part to help slow the spread of the outbreak. MPs had previously planned to be away next week, as well as two weeks next month, so the suspension means they will miss two sitting weeks.

The government is now discussing new major measures to deal with the outbreak, which has infected more than 150 people in Canada from the start. Globally, there have been almostĀ 125,000 cases of the virus.

The motion to suspend Parliament will give the government spending powers to deal with this pandemic.

“There are mechanisms, of course, to follow that, but we need to be able to intervene in this delicate and difficult situation, and that is included also in the motion,” Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez said, adding the budget would also be delayed as a result of the motion.

“It unschedules the budget date, which was planned for March 30, so we can plan it at another date — the budget will happen, but at another date,” he said. “This motion also allows us to reconvene, to call back the House, if we need to adopt measures that require legislation.”

The motion also includes approving the new trade deal between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. A vote on the new NAFTA will take place in the Senate on Friday afternoon as the federal government tries to hasten its passage.

The suspension until April could be further extended if required.

The move represents just how seriously MPs are taking the situation, Rodriguez told reporters, adding things will change.

“When we go back on normal times, we go back and shake thousands of hands,” he explained. “And then, 338 people go back, shake thousands of hands, and come back together here, together in the same space. Now, we’re avoiding that and we’re asking all MPs — and there will be an email sent by the House of Commons with recommendations, what to do, but of course we recommend and we’re saying that these are not normal times and maybe refrain from going to big events and things like that because we need to make a difference.”

Rodriguez added, “We will face this together, and we will get through this together.”