Study of Bill 61 paralyzed

The economic stimulus bill will not go ahead … at least for now. Opposition parties say the amendments tabled by Minister Christian Dubé on Thursday morning are “clearly insufficient”.

“If we were 2 meters from social distance yesterday, today we are 1.95 meters”, launched with irony the member of the Parti Quebecois, Martin Ouellet.

Passage of this omnibus bill could therefore be delayed until the fall if government, opposition parties and independent MPs are unable to agree. Prime Minister François Legault discussed this possibility at a press conference Thursday, a few hours after the tabling of new amendments by Minister Christian Dubé.

“We are ready to compromise, not compromise,” said Mr. Legault, who feels he has “a mandate from Quebecers.” “I would find it sad to lose the summer of 2020,” he added.

Bill 61, which aims to accelerate 202 infrastructure projects to boost the economy hard hit by the pandemic, has been criticized on all counts since its tabling about a week ago. The government is calling for urgent action to avoid losing a construction season. He initially wanted to have it adopted by the end of parliamentary business on Friday, then said he was ready to extend it next week if necessary.

Minister Christian Dubé on Thursday tabled a new series of amendments to his economic stimulus bill to meet the ultimatum of opposition parties and independent deputy Guy Ouellette.

They had demanded the day before that the Legault government abandon the extraordinary powers it wants to give itself, the indefinite extension of the health emergency and the expansion of its immunity from legal proceedings if it wants its project to omnibus economic recovery law goes ahead. They asked for the withdrawal of 17 controversial articles.

“We worked very late last night”

Mr. Dubé believes that he can answer these concerns. “We worked very late last night,” said the President of the Treasury Board, in a press briefing. It proposes adjustments to prevent Bill 61 from circumventing environmental and public procurement integrity laws and promises better accountability. The extended period of the state of health emergency, which starts indefinitely, would end on October 1, 2020 after which the government should renew it every 10 days.

The Minister agrees to withdraw the controversial section 50 which would have allowed the government to derogate from the Act respecting contracts of public bodies (LCOP) to conclude direct contracts. He added another to speed up the government’s payment deadline to provide construction companies with the cash they need to boost the economy.

In environment, Mr. Dubé adds the principle of sustainable development in his bill and includes provisions to ensure the protection of wetlands and other natural habitats. It should be demonstrated that an infrastructure project cannot be carried out elsewhere if it harms endangered species. The Minister of the Environment will also have to request “appropriate mitigating measures”.

However, Christian Dubé will wait until the fall to respond to the request of the opposition parties to add accountability mechanisms, namely to give increased powers to the Autorité des marchés publics (AMP) and to ensure follow-up. tight from the Auditor General “for each accelerated project”.

“It’s not that I don’t want to do it, but I don’t want to do anything wrong,” he said. Obviously, we need time to do this. “

The Liberal Party believes that the government’s effort is “clearly insufficient”. Québec solidaire and the Parti québécois have indicated that they will take the time to analyze them before reacting. Parliamentary work was therefore suspended for a few hours. Consultations in parliamentary committees ended on Wednesday and the government would like to quickly take the next step with the debate on the principle. It needs the unanimous consent of the National Assembly at all stages of its study since the bill was introduced late.

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