In between protests and pandemics, the Coalition Avenir Québec's (CAQ) new Bill 61, "An Act to restart Québec’s economy and to mitigate the consequences of the public health emergency declared on 13 March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic," has been the talk of the town for the better part of a week. Concerns have been raised over certain articles of the bill, criticized by many to be problematic and potentially damaging to Indigenous communities. So, what exactly is Bill 61?
The Parti libéral du Québec (PLQ) has called the bill "a risky economic gamble at the expense of our environmental laws."
Dominique Anglade, the PLQ leader, said the bill would "pave the way for the emergence of collusion and corruption."
"I think we can describe this bill as a bulldozer, as a bill that bulldozes the way things are done and that has not been prepared accordingly."
The CAQ, however, says that "the purpose of Bill 61 is to accelerate the economic recovery so that thousands of Quebeckers can start earning a living again."
The party argues that "it provides for measures to reduce the time needed" necessary infrastructure "with respect for environmental protection and the integrity of public contracts."
On a now-deleted webpage, the CAQ cited the "double challenge" of restarting the economy while not restarting the pandemic, hence the all-encompassing nature of the Bill.
Members of opposition parties point to several troubling Articles in the Bill, specifically Articles 3, 4, 6, 15 to 26, 31, 32, 36, 50, and 51.
"The acquisition, by mutual agreement or expropriation, of property necessary for carrying out a project does not require the Government’s prior authorization when the property is acquired by the Minister of Transport under the powers conferred on the Minister by an Act other than this Act."
In a nutshell, Article 6 explains that the government won't need prior authorization if they need to take away your land or property.
The CAQ retorted by saying that this won't open the door to "unquestionable expropriation."
Instead, it said, the Quebec Administrative Tribunal would only step in if both parties can't reach an agreement.
"Despite any provision to the contrary, the Government may, to prevent or mitigate any consequence arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, take any measure it considers necessary to make any adaptation to any provision of an Act, other than this Act, or of a regulation, other than a regulation made under this Act"
As Bill 61 would put the province in an indefinite state of emergency, the CAQ has proposed giving the government more power to change laws or regulations.
To mitigate potential misuses, the CAQ detailed that any provisions taken under Article 36 are subject to deadlines.
Once the health crisis is deemed to be over, any measures taken under Article 36 would be cancelled after 90 days.
The party also argues that the Bill would only give it power to change certain laws relating to permits and make accommodations for the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic.
"No proceedings may be brought against the Government, a minister, a public body or any other person for an act performed in good faith in the exercise of powers provided for in this Act or in the implementation of measures taken under those powers."
Simply enough, this Article states that you would not be able to sue any member of the government or a public agency related to any measures taken by Bill 61.
Le gouvernement nous présente le #PL61 comme étant la seule solution pour relancer le Québec. Au #PLQ, nous sommes… https://t.co/XOpvUcb30R— Parti libéral du Québec (@Parti libéral du Québec) 1591738539.0
The CAQ, however, writes in the Bill that all will be done in "good faith" and that if a member of government or public service breaks the law, they can be prosecuted.
PL61 | C'est pas tous les jours que tous les partis d'oppositions sortent ensemble, mais quand ça arrive, c'est par… https://t.co/PAbBAwxsXn— Vincent Marissal (@Vincent Marissal) 1591823309.0
Critics also argue that the Bill would permit construction in "protected zones (Articles 15 to 26) and allow public contracts to be granted without bids (Articles 3 and 50).
The CAQ has said that it has no intention of doing either.
We'll have to wait and see what if any changes are coming to the Bill.