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Protesters interrupt Quebec’s Bill 10 closure debate

QUEBEC CITY — Members of the National Assembly were in lock-down Friday, speeding through the adoption of Bill 10.

The Liberals invoked closure to pass part one of their healthcare reform, after accusing the Parti Québécois of purposefully stalling the bill.

“It’s a complete lack of transparency and arrogance,” raged PQ interim leader Stéphane Bédard.

“Bill 10 doesn’t help patients; it helps feed Health Minister Gaétan Barrette’s power trip.”

PQ MNA and media tycoon Pierre Karl Péladeau added he thought the procedure was “bullying.”

Pushing through legislation isn’t new, but it always draws criticism. There were two separate incidents Friday of protesters infiltrating the National Assembly’s “Blue Room” and yelling out insults.

It’s the Couillard government’s first experience with closure and the Health Minister insisted it was necessary to speed the reform along.

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“It’s all about the patient. First of all, we need to have a sustainable healthcare system so we have to control costs; that’s Bill 10,” Barrette explained.

“We have to reorganize healthcare services so we can provide services in proper time, that’s Bill 20,”

The fact that Bill 10 merges French and English hospital boards angers Quebec’s anglophone community.

Anglo defence groups have argued anglophones will lose control over their own institutions and the vitality of the community is at stake.

The final version of the bill wasn’t available on Friday. However, anglo MNAs insisted the legislation preserves anglophones’ right to services in their language.

“I can tell you that the interaction has been constant and vigorous,” said Liberal MNA David Birnbaum.

The PQ was also looking to extract last-minute concessions, such as public board meetings.

“For sure we will work until the last second of the bâillon to get as much as we can,” said the PQ’s Health Critic, Diane Lamarre.

Premier Philippe Couillard promised streamlining will save Quebec taxpayers $220 million.

“The Quebec population gave us a very clear mandate to reach budgetary balance and revitalize the economy,” he said.

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The final version of Bill 10 — expected to pass late Friday night — will contain several hundred amendments.

Anglophone groups, such as the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN), said they will have to study the amendments before giving their opinion.

Quebec’s largest unions are opposed to the bill.