Fact check: NDP Claims About Conservative Attendance Record Exaggerated, But …

According to our Member of Parliament, Rachel Blaney, the Conservatives had the worst attendance record of any party at the hybrid COVID-19 Committee meetings. One of her staff pointed to the committee minutes, where I added up the number of Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green MPs for ten of the twenty-one days. Some of the NDP claims about Conservative attendance record are exaggerated, but they point to an obvious truth.

More Than Half The Conservatives Showed Up To Some Meetings

Ms Blaney claims, “There wasn’t a single day of hybrid sittings where more than half the Conservative MPs showed up.” 

Not true: More than half of the Conservative MPs were present on three of the days I checked: April 28 (88.4%); May 5 (75%); May 21 (59.5%). 

Is Comparing Attendance Records Misleading?

I also found something that raises questions about the degree to which comparing attendance records may be misleading. 100% of the Green party turned out on six days. The closest the NDP came to this was 91.6% on June 17th; 92.2% of the Liberal party turned out on May 19th. However the magnitude of the Green achievement diminishes when you remember there are only three of them. 

It is much easier to obtain a 100% turn-out from 3 Green MPs than 156 Liberals.

Is it also easier to bring 24 NDP MPs to a committee meeting than 121 Conservatives? 

Time Better Spent?

Dan Albas, the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, told the North Island Gazette, “if someone didn’t have a specific role in the committee to question government, their time might be better spent meeting with constituents.”  

Never-the-less, Albas attended 20 meetings and Blaney only 12. 

The Data

A member of Ms Blaney’s staff emailed, “The attendance is published publicly in the minutes of each meeting here: https://www.ourcommons.ca/Committees/en/COVI/Meetings but there’s no public listing of overall attendance records. Someone in the caucus research team counted and did the math on all the meetings. I don’t have the full data set but they did provide us a breakdown for BC specifically to which is as follows:

  • NDP 89%
  • Green 86%
  • Liberals 62%
  • Conservatives 44%”

According to the Globe and Mail, ” The Green Party had the best attendance, with its caucus averaging appearances 95% of the time over the 21 meetings. They were followed by Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould at 86%, the NDP at 85%, the Liberals at 76% and the Bloc Québécois at 73% … the Tories averaged a 47-per-cent attendance rate, placing them well behind the other parties..”

First Three Days

This is what I found.

The NDP trailed, in terms of attendance, during the first three days the committee met. They cannot point to a single day in which two of the other parties did not exceed them.

Third Week in May

Next, I picked three consecutive days toward the end of the May session. Given the number of their MPs, the Liberal turn-out is often impressive. So is the Green Party though, despite their reputation as hard workers one has to remember there are only three of them. By this time, the Conservatives numbers were dropping badly.  

NDP claims about Conservative attendance record were exaggerated
Attendance Three Days in May – compiled by Roy L Hales

Four Days in June

Though there are problems with Ms Blaney’s depiction of the Conservative record prior to this, they appear to accurately describe the four days I chose in June. Conservative attendance dropped to less than half. Though usually surpassed by the Greens, the NDP pulled ahead of the other parties. 

It is also easy to see how the NDP finished first overall (in their count) and the Greens are first according to the Globe and Mail.

NDP claims about Conservative attendance record were exaggerated
Attendance the first two days in June – compiled by Roy L Hales
NDP claims about Conservative attendance record were exaggerated
Attendance the most recent days in June – compiled by Roy L Hales

The Leaders

According to the Globe and Mail, “The NDP’s Jagmeet Singh had the second highest attendance of any leader, 86%, followed by Mr. Scheer (67%), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (62%) …”

Elizabeth May attended more meetings (92%) than any other party leader, “I’m on Zoom feeling like my head is going to blow up, but I do it because there are opportunities to put forward points that should be made and it’s my job to show up.”

Poor Attendance Disrespectful

There is some truth in Ms Blaney’s statement, “While New Democrats were fighting for two weeks of paid sick leave for all Canadians and more help for seniors, the Conservatives couldn’t be bothered to show up. People are struggling financially and they’re worried about their health and the wellbeing of loved ones. It’s really disrespectful that Conservative members didn’t take this seriously.”

Top photo credit: Parliament, Ottawa by remundo via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)