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Liberals recall House, invoke closure to pass Bill 10

QUEBEC CITY — It’s official. The Couillard government will recall the House on Friday to pass its controversial Bill 10. The government is invoking closure, after PQ MNAs spent more than 75 hours stalling debate on the health-care reform.

“MNAs can talk and talk and talk but at some point the government can say, ‘c’mon let’s pass a bill, it’s important,'” argued Liberal House Leader Jean-Marc Fournier.

Bill 10 would see the administration of more than 100 health and social services centres in Quebec merged into 33 mega structures.

The goal: to streamline bureaucracy and save about $220 million. Anglophones are particularly angry to see their boards of directors being dismantled, but Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said he believes negotiations with Anglophone representatives were successful.

“We met with English community representatives many, many times and we’ve addressed, in my view, and I hope in their view, all aspects. Their representatives said they were satisfied regarding all aspects,” he said.

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In a series of amendments tabled in December, Barrette said all bilingual institutions recognized by the Charter of the French language would keep their status. There would also be a clause guaranteeing English access plans. Barrette added he recently struck a deal with Anglophones over IT. Still, Bill 10 changes the whole structure of the health-care system and the PQ argued debate should not have been cut short.

“There were many more amendments we could have discussed,” said the PQ interim leader, Stéphane Bédard.

MNAs are now being forced to sit on Friday and possibly pull an all-nighter. The bill is expected to pass early Saturday morning.

It’s history repeating itself, said the CAQ.

“Under (former Liberal Premier) Jean Charest, there were 28 special legislations over nine years!” CAQ MNA François Bonnardel said.

Barrette maintained he needs to pass Bill 10 quickly to get to Bill 20 – another critical piece of his reform. He promised to be open and transparent when discussing patient quotas with doctors, but could not guarantee it wouldn’t end the same way.