Quebec Liberals block passage of end-of-life bill

The Philippe Couillard-led Quebec Liberals have blocked the passage of Quebec's end-of-life legislation, Bill 52, said parliamentary house leader Stéphane Bédard.

PQ parliamentary leader Stéphane Bédard calls it the most disappointing event of his entire career

Quebec's end-of-life bill makes provisions for terminally ill people to have the help of a willing doctor in committing suicide.

The Philippe Couillard-led Quebec Liberals have blocked the passage of Quebec's end-of-life legislation, Bill 52, said parliamentary house leader Stéphane Bédard.

He had strong words for Couillard, calling his lack of willingness to collaborate on the bill's passage a total abandonment of his responsibilities.

I'm asking Mr. Couillard, 'Why?'- Véronique Hivon, Minister for Social Services 

According to Bédard, the Coalition Avenir Québec and Québec Solidaire parties were willing to stay late today to get the bill passed before the members of the national assembly took a two-week break. 

However, Couillard's Liberals declined, saying not enough time was available today to debate the issue.

Bédard called it the most disappointing event of his entire political career.

“I don’t know what they do on their lunch hour that is so important that they couldn’t talk about this bill,” he told the media on Thursday afternoon.

In response to the Liberals' insistence that there was not enough time to adequately debate the bill, Bédard asked how it was even possible that anyone who had something to say about the end-of-life bill hadn't already said it in the past four years.

4 years in the making

On Wednesday, parliamentary leader Stéphane Bédard expressed frustration over opposition parties’ lack of willingness to pass the bill before the budget is tabled.

PQ minister Stéphane Bédard says a vote needs to be called on Bill 52 now before the budget comes down Thursday at 4 p.m. ET if it's to stand a chance of being passed. (CBC)
He said it was a non-partisan issue and that the bill is the culmination of four years’ work by two different parties and administrations.

Quebec’s Committee on Dying With Dignity was assembled during former premier Jean Charest’s tenure, and the work was continued under the PQ.

It produced a massive report examining the issue of medically assisted death, which led the PQ to table Bill 52 in June 2013.

The government also saw hundreds of people during its public hearings on Bill 52, and has received more than 16,000 comments on the issue.

Minister for Social Services Véronique Hivon was the one to introduce the end-of-life bill to the national assembly. At the time, she said she was proud that Quebec was taking a stand on the issue.

"I'm completely puzzled. I don't understand at all the decision that has been taken today by Mr. Couillard and the Liberal Party of Quebec...The reactions are really really strong — nobody understands. I'm asking Mr. Couillard, 'Why?'" Hivon said.

"This was not just an ordinary bill. It's a bill we've been working on for four such a a non-partisan manner and such a collaborative way that was appreciated by the Quebec population."

Bill may die on order paper

If the bill is not passed today, it could die on the order paper because of the 4 p.m. ET tabling of the budget.

Quebec Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau submitted the PQ’s second budget in 18 months. Tomorrow, MNAs go on a two-week break.

The current PQ government could fall if the opposition parties vote against the budget, triggering an election.

If an election is called, the passage of the end-of-life bill would be paralyzed until an eventual revival by the next government.