Opposition parties unite to delay adoption of Quebec's economic stimulus package until fall

Quebec's parliamentary session adjourned Friday afternoon with Bill 61 not yet passed and the opposition still united against it. Opposition parties suggested the bill be split in two, with "purely economic" measures in one piece of legislation and more controversial proposals in another.

Parliamentary session adjourned Friday with Bill 61 still on backburner

Bill 61 sought to fast-track more than 200 construction and infrastructure projects, to stimulate an economy faltering due to the pandemic. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

The Legault government's controversial legislation to relaunch Quebec's economy is on hold until at least the fall after last-minute attempts to coax, cajole or shame Quebec's opposition parties into backing it went nowhere.

The National Assembly adjourned Friday afternoon until Sept. 15, with a united opposition still refusing to pass Bill 61 — the stimulus package that would have fast-tracked more than 200 construction and infrastructure projects.

Opposition parties took particular issue with measures in the bill that would allow the government to bypass some of the normal rules for major infrastructure projects.

Among other things, the bill had provisions for accelerated environmental reviews, the awarding of contracts without tender and the fast-tracking of government expropriation of property.

"The downright abusive powers the government is looking for," even after amendments were made, "are not necessary," said Liberal MNA Gaétan Barrette.

Premier François Legault needed the support of the opposition in order to move the bill, tabled just last week, from the committee stage to the floor of the National Assembly for a vote.

Opposition parties suggested the bill be split in two, with "purely economic" measures in one piece of legislation and more controversial proposals in another.

"The articles about restaurant owners, the articles about the evictions of merchants — we are ready to collaborate in the very rapid adoption of these articles," said MNA Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the co-spokesperson for Québec Solidaire.

Legault and his government campaigned furiously in the final days of the session to persuade the other parties to move forward with the proposed legislation.

The premier made a last-ditch appeal on Facebook Friday morning. Cabinet ministers emphasized the bill's urgency, pleaded with the other parties to find common ground and assailed the opposition's tactics. 

"I didn't know how good the opposition was with disinformation," said Treasury Board President Christian Dubé, who tabled the bill on June 3. "I remind everybody that we are in a situation of crisis."

Dubé said there is strong support for the bill among Quebec's mayors. The Union of Quebec Municipalities, including the mayors of Quebec City and Montreal, also pleaded with MNAs to reach a deal to help get people back to work.

However, the bill drew the ire of environmental, anti-corruption and First Nations groups, who expressed their concern at National Assembly hearings on the bill earlier this week.

With files from Radio-Canada

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