With only two days to go before politicians at the National Assembly wrap up for the holidays, the Quebec government says it’s willing to extend work on its major health-care reform bill — but only by three days.
The government is proposing extending the legislative committee’s work for three days, and reconvening the National Assembly to vote on the bill on Dec. 14.
“I think we’re so close from the goal, from finishing all the articles,” Health Minister Christian Dubé told reporters Wednesday. “The Opposition have been so constructive in their questions, the way they have been debating.”
But in order to extend the legislative session, the government would need the approval of all opposition parties and it doesn’t have that so far.
Bill 15 is one of the largest pieces of proposed legislation in the province’s history. It would see a major overhaul of the health-care system, including the creation of a new agency called Santé Québec to oversee it.
With more than 400 clauses left to review, the Parti-Québécois is denying the province’s request, saying three days isn’t a realistic timeline to get the remaining work done.
Instead, PQ Health Critic Jöel Arseneau is proposing that the government suspend work on the bill and resume it in January.
“Adopting Bill 15 before the holidays meets no other need than for the desire of the minister to turn the page as fast possible,” Arseneau said in a statement.
The health critic went on to say that by setting a deadline for the adoption of the bill, Dubé was only “postponing” invoking closure.
Government House Leader Simon Jolin-Barrette said Wednesday he was not willing to extend the session more than the three days proposed.
He accused Arseneau of not being present enough in the bill’s clause-by-clause review, and told reporters he has hope the PQ will change its mind and agree to his terms.
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“Mr. Jöel Arseneau is almost never there to study the bill,” Jolin-Barrette said. “If you don’t show up to do your job in parliamentary commission and then you say ‘I want more time,’ maybe you should come and sit in parliamentary commission.”
On social media, the PQ’s spokesperson quickly defended Arseneau following the minister’s comment, pointing out the party is down to only four MNAs and that means he’s had to split his time between other government bills.
Meanwhile, both Québec solidaire and the Quebec Liberal Party accepted the proposal, but are hoping to get more than the three days suggested if need be.
“Every day that we do sit in committee, we find stuff that doesn’t work in the bill,” said Quebec Liberal Party health critic André Fortin. “An extra three days means that, even though we’ll vote against the bill because we don’t think it has a positive impact on the health network, it still means a better bill at the end of the day.”
For his part, Dubé still refused to rule out invoking closure — and therefore halting any further debate — if work on the bill is not complete by the end of next week.
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