Legault government beats the clock to pass bill to jump start Quebec economy

Members of the National Assembly stand in a minute of silence to honor the victims as the legislature resumes with limited attendance of members during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wednesday, May 13, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/POOL Simon Clark. THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Legault government has finally gotten its wish, passing Bill 66 just before the assembly breaks for the holiday.

Passed Thursday night, the bill will speed up some 180 infrastructure projects for schools, roads, and seniors’ homes by reducing the timeframe for environmental assessments.

The passing of the bill comes after a previously proposed version, Bill 61, was widely criticized by the opposition as a power grab. Bill 61 would have allowed the government to bypass the Public Contracts Act and extend the state of health emergency indefinitely.

Despite taking credit for forcing changes to the earlier proposal, both opposition parties voted against Bill 66.

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

In a press release Thursday, the Parti Québécois said that it voted against the bill “because the government insists on opposing the environment and economic recovery.”

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PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon went on to say, “The priority given to the McGill and Dawson expansion projects remains, which is unacceptable.”

“The Parti Québécois will always oppose the planned anglicization of Quebec,” said PQ member for Jonquière, Sylvain Gaudreault.

According to Gaudreault, Bill 66 largely targets the electoral priorities of the Coalition Avenir Québec, “which are not necessarily those of the various regions of Quebec.”

Québec Solidaire also voted against the bill. “It’s a bad bill,” said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Solidaire co-spokesperson.

“In the end, there are always attacks on environmental processes and that, for Quebec Solidaire, is unacceptable,” said MP Vincent Marissal on Thursday.

For his part, Liberal MP Gaétan Barrette argued that the exceptional situation deserved an exceptional remedy.

“Economic recovery depends in part on infrastructure. It seems acceptable to us to deviate from the strict rules that we know, especially in terms of the environment,” he said.

For her part, Sonia LeBel, Minister Responsible for Government Administration, highlighted her government’s success in giving Quebec one more tool to revive its economy in the middle of the pandemic.

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