A quarrel between the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) and the Liberal Party brought the National Assembly to a temporary halt Thursday. The two parties cannot agree on how to proceed with hearings on Bill 9, the government’s immigration bill.
A chorus of Liberal MNA’s chanted: “He (Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette) doesn’t know his numbers!”
Jolin-Barrette retorted to the taunt with a question.
“Why didn’t you guys do anything in the last 15 years?”
That kind of attack is too personal for the National Assembly, where MNA’s are only allowed to address the speaker. François Paradis tried to get things back under control by reminding the house that this rule applies to everyone.
“We must address the president and that doesn’t happen often,” he added.
A number of groups who were supposed to present at public hearings on the immigration bill couldn’t make it. The Liberals and the CAQ are blaming each other.
“We’re talking key groups like CSN, like the Barreau du Québec that are not going to be able to be present, simply because they were not notified early enough,” said Liberal MNA Dominique Anglade.
“We’re open to listen to many groups; it’s not always easy to deal with the Liberal Party regarding the list of these groups,” said Premier François Legault.
Québec Solidaire (QS) says both parties are at fault.
“We have two political parties right now, one political party that is very happy to be in power. They want to go very fast and that’s a problem, but we also have a party that is frustrated about being in opposition and they are obstructing the process for that reason,” said QS house leader, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.
“The legislative process, the democratic process is the victim of that lack of collaboration,” he added.
Thursday afternoon, a lengthy debate over procedural issues held up committee work. Jolin-Barrette, who is also the government house leader and Sébastien Proulx, house leader of the official opposition, went head-to-head for more than 90 minutes while the committee studying the immigration bill was kept waiting.
“This is an important issue, but as you see, it’s not starting,” said QS MNA, Andrés Fontecilla.
Finally, the speaker ended the debate, but because the first groups to speak weren’t there, the committee sat for 13 minutes before taking a two-hour break.
Jolin-Barrette, who then had to explain to reporters what just happened, missed his chance to make opening remarks. Instead, they were delivered by Vanier-Les Rivières MNA Sylvain Lévesque.
The committee reconvened after 3 p.m. and heard testimonies from economist Pierre Fortin, the Conseil du patronat du Quebec and the Commission des partenaires du marché du travail, before adjourning. Hearings continue Tuesday.