Quebec government walking back parts of economic restart bill as criticism grows

Click to play video: 'Quebec’s Bill 61 sent back to the drawing board' Quebec’s Bill 61 sent back to the drawing board
The CAQ government's Bill 61, which aims at kickstarting the economy, has been met with harsh criticism from opposition parties. On Wednesday, the Quebec auditor general raised concerns that some parts of the bill could go so far as undermining the changes that came out of the Charbonneau Commission. Global's Raquel Fletcher explains. – Jun 10, 2020

Quebec’s auditor general told MNAs at the province’s legislature on Wednesday she is worried that Bill 61, the government’s bill to restart the economy during the novel coronavirus crisis, would trample reforms made after the Charbonneau Commission.

“I am extremely worried (about accountability),” said Guylaine Leclerc.

In question period, Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade voiced similar concerns.

“The premier and his government would create extremely favourable conditions for the emergence of corruption and collusion, and grant themselves extraordinary powers,” she said.

READ MORE: Bill 61, to fast-track infrastructure projects in Quebec, raises red flags with opposition parties

Premier François Legault has said he would extend this National Assembly session in order to pass legislation with the consensus of opposition parties, but all the opposition parties say they won’t vote for the bill as is.

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“This bill has been written on a napkin, apparently, and (it is) going way too far, way too far in so many areas, environment, fundamental rights and public money, just to mention these three,” said Quebec Solidaire MNA, Vincent Marissal.

“It would take, I think, I would say in English, an extreme makeover,” said PQ MNA Véronique Hivon.

Treasury Board President Christian Dubé told the auditor general he is 100 per cent at fault for articles in the bill that were poorly written such as upholding the public health emergency law indefinitely. The law suspends many civil rights and normally a government is only able to enact it for 10 days at a time.

READ MORE: Quebec looks to revive economy weakened by coronavirus crisis by fast tracking infrastructure projects

“I don’t want to say what is that maximum date right now, because I want to negotiate with the opposition on that. So, that’s very clear that we’re flexible on that one,” Dubé said.

He also said he’s also going to re-write article 50 concerning municipal public contracts.

“It’s too large, it’s too large,” he said. “The way we’ve written article 50, it’s too wide, and we need to be more careful, the way we craft it.”

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Despite this demonstrated flexibility, opposition parties held a joint press conference late Wednesday afternoon. They said there were at least 15 other amendments they would like to see before they throw their support this bill.

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