Quebec pushes to pass major health-care reform bill before end of session

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Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé has presented a “game plan” to push through a mammoth piece of legislation meant to reform the health-care system before the end of the parliamentary session in December.

Bill 15 comprises more than 1,000 articles.

Most notably, the legislation calls for the creation of a Crown corporation called Santé Québec, which would oversee all activities related to the public health-care system, including providing services and facilitating access.

It was tabled in the National Assembly in March and at least 180 hours have been spent studying it in the provincial legislature — an “enormous” amount of time for one bill, Dubé told reporters Tuesday.

With only 60 hours of committee work scheduled between now and the end of the session — and several hundred articles yet to be debated — Dubé is calling on opposition parties to kick things into high gear. 

“We’ve settled most of the major issues,” he said. “We’ve been working on this for six months.”

Dubé unveiled his plan for the next three weeks, which calls for a “block-by-block” analysis of the articles that MNAs have not yet considered — almost half. According to him, this schedule is realistic and will be sufficient to adopt the bill. 

The minister said there are only two major sections of the bill left to be studied carefully: those concerning medical specialists and union governance.

The other sections mainly include articles designed to prevent the legislation from contradicting other laws.

“We can finish studying Bill 15 in 60 hours,” Dubé said. However, he refused to say whether his government would be prepared to invoke closure next month should he be wrong.

To that end, opposition parties said Tuesday it would be difficult to complete the study of the rest of the legislation in the allotted time. 

“After all, half of the most extensive bill in Quebec’s history has yet to be analyzed,” Liberal MNA André Fortin. 

Québec Solidaire MNA Guillaume Cliche-Rivard said it’s simply “not realistic” to think hundreds of articles can be adopted in the final weeks of the parliamentary session when it took three hours Tuesday to pass just four. 

The bill has also generated opposition from six former Quebec premiers, who fear that the bill, if passed into law, would lead to health-care institutions losing some autonomy and undermine their ability to raise funds.

Last month, protesters took to the streets of Montreal to raise their voices in opposition to Bill 15, saying the reform will undermine the work midwives do in the province by placing the them under the authority of medical directors. 

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