Sonia Lebel tabled the new version of the bill on the acceleration of infrastructure projects at the National Assembly on Wednesday.
This succeeds the late Bill 61, which the Legault government had failed to pass last spring.
The opposition parties and several civil society groups then criticized the government for seeking to grant itself too much power, in particular by allowing it to bypass calls for tenders and by extending the state of health emergency until at the end of this CAQ mandate.
In the new version presented by the president of the Conseil du trésor, Quebec goes much less far.
The piece of legislation, known as Bill 66, focuses on speeding up environmental assessments and expropriations. Prime Minister François Legault has insisted in recent weeks that infrastructure projects are taking too long to get started in Quebec.
To reassure opponents, the Legault government has also provided safeguards that will ensure better accountability.
The Public Procurement Authority will be responsible in particular for monitoring the awarding of public contracts. In particular, the body will have the power to suspend or terminate contracts deemed to be problematic.
The progress of projects and the application of acceleration measures in the environmental field will also have to be communicated on an ad hoc basis.
Another measure plans to “facilitate payment to companies” working on public contracts. In the spring, associations argued that payments sometimes take too long to be made to entrepreneurs.
The government estimates that these measures will allow time savings of 2 to 36 months.
While Bill 61 provided for 202 projects to which the new rules could apply – in addition to providing for the possibility of adding more – the new piece of legislation presents a “closed list of 181 projects”. Among these, there are 47 Elder Homes projects, a flagship electoral commitment of the CAQ to eventually replace CHSLDs with living environments on a more human scale.
For Liberal MP Gaétan Barrette, the abandonment of projects provided for in Bill 61 shows that it was not necessary to accelerate their start-up, as the Legault government affirmed in the spring.
More details will follow …