Quebec is looking to ramp up 202 infrastructure projects across the province in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic’s toll on the economy.
Bill 61, known as an “Act to restart Quebec’s economy and to mitigate the consequences of the public health emergency” due to the COVID-19 crisis, was unveiled by the government on Wednesday.
As part of the plan, the government wants to accelerate the construction of schools, seniors’ homes, roads and public transit systems. If passed, the bill will allow some projects to be fast tracked without all the regular procedures in place.
Treasury Board President Christian Dubé said the province wants to help people and sectors recover during the health crisis as lockdown measures implemented in March are slowly eased. He insisted that rigor will still be used when it comes to doling out contracts.
“We will not go against laws or regulations,” he said, adding the bill will permit for certain authorizations to be given more quickly.
The proposed legislation will revive the economy and allow for a less bureaucratic process, according to Dubé.
“We know we were all weathering an unusual storm,” he said.
Under the plan, about 90 infrastructure projects would be ramped up in the health sector, including construction on 48 seniors’ homes. This also includes renovation plans for hospitals in Montreal, such as the renovation and expansion of Lachine Hospital.
In the education sector, about 39 projects would be fast tracked. This includes the construction of new elementary and high schools as well as the expansion of other academic institutions such as Dawson College in Montreal.
When it comes to roads and public transit, the Legault government is looking at accelerating about 50 projects. This includes the long-awaited extension to the Montreal Metro’s blue line.
Finance Minister Eric Girard described the situation as “exceptional” when outlining the details of the bill alongside Dubé.
Girard also announced that he will provide an update on the province’s finances on June 19, but warned that the pandemic has had a grip on the economy.
“This year is going to be a negative year,” he said. “The worst year for the economy since World War Two.”
The announcement comes as Quebec saw 291 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, on Wednesday. It leads the country with 51,884 infections.
The death toll stands at 4,794 after 81 more fatalities were reported from the previous day.
As of Wednesday, the number of hospitalizations decreased by 34 for a total of 1,141. There are 158 people in intensive care.
— With files from the Canadian Press