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Bill 61: Preparing for Quebec’s Post-Pandemic Economy

Bill 61: Preparing for Quebec’s Post-Pandemic Economy
June 5, 2020

Very early on, the Government of Quebec (Government) announced that infrastructure was to play a key role in restarting Quebec’s economy, which was severely impacted by the COVID‑19 pandemic. It also emphasized the need to secure a certain level of medical self-sufficiency and food autonomy to deal with the long-term repercussions of the pandemic and other similar events in the future.

In light of this, on June 3, 2020, 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 (Bill 61) was tabled by the Minister Responsible for Government Administration and Chairman of the Conseil du trésor, Christian Dubé. The Government hopes that Bill 61 will be adopted shortly.

As its title indicates, Bill 61 aims to restart Quebec’s economy mainly by accelerating certain projects, principally in the infrastructure sector. In addition, drawing lessons from supply issues caused by the pandemic within certain priority sectors—such as health and food—Bill 61 aims to increase Quebec’s medical and food self-sufficiency. Furthermore, Bill 61 provides for a 90-day transitional period once the public health emergency is terminated, during which period, measures may be taken regarding the health sector, fiscal matters or permits, among others, to ensure a seamless return to normality.

Bill 61 provides that the Government may, for a period of two years following date of the bill’s passing, make the following projects (Projects) benefit from acceleration measures:

  • Any of the 202 social , road and public transit infrastructure projects listed in its schedule, in which case the Government will designate a Minister responsible for each such project
  • By decree made following expedited examination by the competent committee of the National Assembly:
    • Certain infrastructure projects referred to in the Public Infrastructure Act
    • Projects developed by a municipal body or other public bodies not referred to in the Public Infrastructure Act
    • Projects developed by a person or group other than a public body where the Government is of the opinion that such projects are aimed at increasing Quebec’s medical or food self-sufficiency

Pursuant to Bill 61, the acceleration measures from which the Projects may benefit are the following:

  • Acquisition of Property: Bill 61 provides for a streamlined expropriation procedure, with specific provisions applicable to the extension of the Montréal Métro’s blue line.

  • Occupation of the Domain of the State: Work to be carried out on the Domain of the State with respect to the Projects may be temporarily authorized in certain circumstances before rights are obtained.
  • Quality of the Environment: The Government may, by regulation, streamline or accelerate procedures applicable under the Environment Quality Act and replace these with other measures aimed at ensuring adequate protection of the environment, and of the health, safety, welfare and comfort of human beings, as well as the protection of other living species and of property.
  • Flora: Where an activity carried out in the context of a Project may alter the existing ecosystem, the present biological diversity and the chemical or physical components particular to a plant habitat, the minister responsible may impose the payment of financial compensation, to be paid into the Fund for the Protection of the Environment and the Waters in the Domain of the State, in addition to any other condition.
  • Habitat of Certain Fish and Other Wildlife Habitats: Bill 61 sets out a presumption that work which may alter a biological, physical or chemical component particular to a fish habitat may be authorized if a public body or citizen having developed the Project for which such work is being carried out meets certain prescribed conditions, including financial compensation paid to the Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, prior to the commencement of the work.
  • Parks: Bill 61 provides for certain acceleration measures when, in the context of a Project, changes are to be made to the boundaries of a park.
  • Land Use Planning and Development: Bill 61 provides that the provisions of the Act respecting land use planning and development with respect to Government intervention may be set aside or streamlined in prescribed circumstances.
  • Contracts Entered into by Municipal Bodies: Pursuant to Bill 61, the Government may determine the conditions applicable to any contract entered into by a municipal body with respect to a Project.

Bill 61 sets out annual reporting requirements applicable to Projects benefiting from these aforementioned measures.

Bill 61 also provides that, for a period of two years, the Government may, by regulation and upon the recommendation of the Conseil du trésor, determine conditions applicable to public contracts and subcontracts governed by the Act respecting contracting by public bodies that differ from conditions prescribed in such act and its regulations; this section of Bill 61 is applicable notwithstanding the Act respecting contracting by public bodies.

Reaction from the opposition and various stakeholder groups has been swift, pre-empting even the tabling of Bill 61. It will be interesting to follow the virtual consultations expected to take place shortly.

For further information, please contact:

Alain Massicotte                    514-982-4007
Clémentine Sallée                 514-982-4077
Zina El Amrani                       514-982-4074

or any other member of our Infrastructure group.
 
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