MLA exemption from isolation requirements questioned in legislature
“I don’t anticipate anyone using it unless it’s absolutely necessary”
Nunavut’s exemption of MLAs from its COVID-19 self-isolation requirements was questioned during Tuesday’s sitting of Nunavut’s legislative assembly.
“I didn’t think that was possible, to be honest, to find something less popular than isolation, but here we have it,” said John Main, MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove.
“The exemption to the 14-day isolation requirement is even more unpopular.”
Seeking to provide clarity for his constituents and other residents of Nunavut, Main asked Minister of Health George Hickes why the exemption was put in place.
Hickes replied that the decision came from a national discussion.
“As the pandemic arose, it created a lot of challenges that we didn’t foresee as a society,” he said.
Conversations initially focused on the ability of members of parliament and senators “to return home and get back to work as needed,” said Hickes.
“The purpose behind it was to not put undue hardship on the governance of the country and of each jurisdiction.”
Based on that, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, felt that provincial and territorial legislators also had that same ability, “out of pure openness and transparency,” said Hickes.
Responding to another of Main’s questions, Hickes stated that no politician in Nunavut, whether an MLA, Senator Dennis Patterson or MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, has elected to bypass isolation.
“I personally have no intention of using this exemption,” said Main.
“And the vast majority of my colleagues, on the regular member side, have also indicated that.”
Noting this, Main asked Hickes in what circumstance such an exemption would be needed.
“There is absolutely no condition under normal travel conditions that anybody, any one of us or an MP or a senator would be able to apply for the exemption for recreational or non-essential travel,” responded Hickes.
Adding to his response, Hickes gave the example that had he needed to attend last week’s countrywide finance ministers’ meeting, he would be in isolation right now as opposed to appearing before the assembly.
“So I understand the value of why it’s there,” he said.
“I don’t anticipate anyone using it unless it’s absolutely necessary.”