The president of the treasury Board Christian Dubé
June 11, 2020 10h18
Updated at 20h11
Bill 61: no middle ground
The Canadian Press
After days of consultation and how the proposals of amendments, the government and the opposition find themselves back to back, unable to find a common ground on the bill 61.
The controversial piece of legislation, which was filed on June 3, aims to accelerate the construction of 202 infrastructure projects.
The opposition parties refused on Thursday to debate the principle of the bill, which is “stale”, according to Québec solidaire because it gives the government exceptional powers and even abusive.
But it was the liberal Party that has suffered the wrath of the government.
“This is not the interests of Quebecers who are privileged, has fulminé the government house leader, Simon Jolin-Barrette. The liberal Party today has shown that it was against the economic recovery of Québec.”
However, the day had begun on a note rather conciliatory.
The president of the treasury Board, Christian Dubé, has tabled twenty amendments to bill 61, and confident of thus being able to gain the support of opposition parties.
Having regard to the late filing of the piece of legislation, the government needs the unanimous support of the parties here on Friday. Otherwise, it’s going to fall. “I’ve moved on all applications,” said Mr. Dubé.
He said wanting to change the articles of the draft law, primarily concerning the environment, public procurement and accountability.
The treasurer of the government abandons the idea to extend indefinitely the state of emergency health, several groups who have seen a departure from democracy. He is willing to extend until October 1, 2020.
In terms of the environment, the minister said it would be better to enshrine in the bill the principle of “avoid, minimize, compensate”.
In its current form, the bill would allow a developer to destroy a natural environment for money, without the obligation to demonstrate that it has sought first to avoid and then to minimize impacts.
The controversial article 50 has been rewritten in order to allow the municipalities only to enter into a contract without complying with the standards laid down by the Law on contracts of public bodies.
Article 51, which allowed the government and its ministers to keep away from prosecution, has been completely changed.
In addition, Christian Dubé now provides that ministers prepare a half-yearly report on the progress of projects for which they are responsible, to piggyback on their annual report.
Each infrastructure project added to the list will be the subject of a debate in the national Assembly for three hours, instead of an hour.
Finally, a project may not receive an acceleration measurement during one year after the entry into force of the act, and not two years, has been proposed by Mr. Dubé.
The day before, the opposition parties and the independent mna Guy Ouellette had issued an ultimatum: either he would re-write the bill, or he is caught in their refusal to adopt it.
Mr. Dubé argued Thursday that Quebec was in need of this bill to shorten the time for the construction of schools, houses of seniors and public transit, among others.
He pleaded with the opposition to give him their “help” to pass the bill 61 by “natural ways” within a short period of time.
Dubé admits his wrongs
During his press briefing in the morning, Mr. Dubé was told to take the blame for “a few pieces” he has been able to “escape”.
He explained that he had not realized how much the topics of the environment and public procurement were “sensitive”.
Lack of political experience? he was asked a journalist. “Perhaps,” replied the minister.
“Is there anything I could have done things differently compared to some of the articles? The answer is yes,” he said in English.
“There is the time factor, he also justified. For me, this project is happening to me and he said to me, it is important for recovery, do you want to deal with it?”
In response to the criticism, Mr. Dubé was said to have taken two other commitments: he will introduce legislation this fall to give more powers to the public procurement Authority, and would give a mandate to the auditor general so that it monitors each of the projects included in the bill.
The liberal opposition has, however, rejected on Thursday the proposal of amendments of Mr. Dubé, in describing clearly insufficient.
The leader of the liberal Party of Quebec, Dominique Anglade, has conceded that a step had been taken, but that there remained at least 10 km to go.
According to her, the draft law 61 of the government Legault is at best messy, at worst as an “attempt ill-fated to grant power of fools”.
“It is very far from the cup to her lips, she said during question period. The members in this Room are disappointed.”
According to the co-spokesperson of Québec solidaire, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the government is “fell in love” with the state of public health emergency. It requires that the article about the state of emergency to be removed.
“Finally, this will be a romance of only four months. It is a little less long, it is true, but it’s still far too long”, he decided.
For its part, the parliamentary leader of the Parti québécois, Martin Ouellet, is focused on the changes to section 50, which are ill-advised, according to him, considering the conclusions of the Charbonneau commission in respect of the municipalities.
“Mr. President, is that the government has listened to the Charbonneau commission? (…) Is that the government remembers the boats, parties, mayors corrupt, engineering firms?”
Moreover, the quebec Centre of environmental law, the David Suzuki Foundation, Nature Quebec, Equiterre, CPAWS Québec and Greenpeace have urged the deputies on Thursday not to adopt the principle of the bill 61, “despite the advanced in a marginal environment with the following amendments”.
“The proposed amendments do not address our main concern in terms of the environment, namely the importance that the environment is recognized as an engine for the reconstruction,” they wrote in a press release.