The new anti-corruption bill introduced by Quebec Premier Pauline Marois's government is getting a lukewarm response from opposition parties.
Marois's Parti Québécois tabled Bill 1 — its first piece of legislation — today. The new law is designed to end fraud and collusion in the tendering of public contracts.
The Integrity in Public Contracts Act places the onus on companies to prove they are honest and free of corruption.
The bill gives the province's securities and exchange commission, along with Quebec's anti-corruption squad (known by its French initials, UPAC), the dual role of screening any and all companies bidding for a government tender.
The Liberal opposition said the new law would trap law enforcement officers in paperwork rather than being out in the field.
"Are we going to have police officers stuck in court for days, weeks, months, not working in the field trying to catch criminals?" said Guy Ouellette, the Liberals' labour critic.
Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault said the bill is underwhelming and the PQ should focus on separating money and politics with stiffer spending limits for political parties.
"When you look at ways to reduce possibilities of collusion or corruption, with political parties, the first thing you should look at is the level of expenses," Legault said.
Other critics said the bill would force authorities to screen more than 20,000 firms that bid on projects worth an estimated total of $24 billion every year.
Wednesday's inaugural address to open the new legislative session made it clear the PQ has changed tacks from its main focus during the summer election campaign, when language and cultural issues predominated. It's now acutely concerned with battling corruption in the province after hearing shocking testimony at the province's corruption inquiry.
Marois told the national assembly her party wants the bill passed before the holiday season.