April 24, 2015

English Edition, No. 8

Bill 28 Adopted Through Closure

Closure and the Profound Need
for Democratic Renewal

Bill 28 Adopted Through Closure
Closure and the Profound Need for Democratic Renewal
For Your Information

April 18 Day of Action Against Bill C-51
Militant Action in Montreal to Defeat Bill C-51 and the Harper Government

Bill 28 Adopted Through Closure

Closure and the Profound Need for Democratic Renewal

On April 20 at 11:46 pm, the National Assembly adopted through closure Bill 28, An Act mainly to implement certain provisions of the Budget Speech of 4 June 2014 and return to a balanced budget in 2015-2016. This far-reaching omnibus legislation was adopted by a vote of 64 in favour, 43 against and 0 abstentions.

Much of the day was devoted to discussion amongst the members of the National Assembly over the use of closure. One of the members of the Opposition raised the issue that in 2009, a parliamentary reform was adopted to better define closure procedures to permit the adoption of only one bill at a time "out of respect for democratic debate" and "only in exceptional cases." The Liberals responded with contempt that closure proceedings were invoked because the opposition parties said they would be voting against the bill anyway and that delaying the vote "runs counter to attaining a zero deficit" and represents "for the citizenry a daily financial loss" that could supposedly be of benefit to them.

The day turned out to be a spectacle of outrage toward the government's use of closure, on the attack on democracy, non-compliance with norms, existing jurisprudence and the procedural codes the Assembly has equipped itself with to manage its functioning often adopted unanimously etc., as well as the short time allotted for such a vast bill. However the fact is that closure is part and parcel of the National Assembly's proceedings. It is a tool at the disposal of the National Assembly, used by the party in power holding the majority to do as it sees fit by using all possible pretexts to advance its agenda in the service of private interests.

The Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec (PMLQ) affirms its opposition to this omnibus bill that will result in further damage to Quebec's economy. The law has a very broad scope. It will affect childcare services and families through increased rates ranging from $7 to $20 per day, pharmacists by cutting their fees, thereby impacting the services they provide, and Quebec's regions through the abolition of various Elected Regional Committees (CRE) and Local Development Centres (CLD). The government can seize Hydro-Québec surpluses and use them as it sees fit, mining companies will no longer have to make public a wealth of data such as the amount and value of the natural resources of the subsoil and the royalties paid, and the list goes on.

Finance Minister Carlos Leitão said, "I am a little disappointed that it had to end like this [the law being passed through closure- CP], but I'm not uncomfortable because it is a procedure within the rules of parliamentarianism. We noticed that in recent sessions it was not moving forward at all. If we continued at that pace I think we would still be here next year."

Premier Philippe Couillard, together with Jean-Marc Fournier, Minister responsible for Access to Information and the Reform of Democratic Institutions, raised the issue of the costs of "delaying" the bill's adoption. They claimed it amounted to a "shortfall" of about thirty million dollars per month in government revenues. The Premier added that the guiding principle behind the adoption of this bill is a "balanced budget," as if an equation between two columns of numbers has became a principle of democracy.

All this shows the deep crisis in which the National Assembly is mired at the expense of the public interest. The April 20 debate is an illustration of the degeneration of this institution, which is not being used to solve the serious problems facing the people of Quebec. Far from it -- it is being used to block their aspirations and impose the government's anti-social agenda. Not one of the parties in the Assembly has challenged the fraud of the Couillard government's austerity agenda, or that of a balanced budget as a way to divert more money into the hands of the monopolies and the private interests that control the National Assembly. On the contrary, there is consensus on the fraud of a balanced budget and the only varying opinions are over the means of achieving it.

The fact that the National Assembly must serve the public interest and that the Couillard government is able to use it for the benefit of the private interests it represents demonstrates the urgent need for democratic renewal. The need to renew the political process, to elaborate new mechanisms whereby the people are able to take part in making decisions that affect them and control the process is more than ever the order of the day.

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For Your Information

Bill 28, An Act mainly to implement certain provisions
of the Budget Speech of 4 June 2014 and return to a balanced budget in 2015-2016

Bill 28 was tabled in the National Assembly November 26, 2014 by Carlos J Leitão, current Minister of Finance for the Couillard government.

The bill contains 12 chapters for a total of 337 articles. It modifies 59 laws and eight regulations. The bill modifies the following laws:

Civil Code of Quebec;

Act respecting Access to documents held by public bodies and the Protection of personal information (chapter A-2.1);

Financial Administration Act (chapter A-6.001);

Tax Administration Act (chapter A-6.002);

Act respecting assistance for victims of crime (chapter A-13.2);

Sustainable Forest Development Act (chapter A-18.1);

Act respecting land use planning and development (chapter A-19.1);

Health Insurance Act (chapter A-29);

Act respecting prescription drug insurance (chapter A-29.01);

Charter of Ville de Longueuil (chapter C-11.3);

Code of ethics and conduct of the Members of the National Assembly (chapter C-23.1);

Code of Penal Procedure (chapter C-25.1);

Municipal Powers Act (chapter C-47.1);

Act respecting contracting by public bodies (chapter C-65.1);

Act respecting financial services cooperatives (chapter C-67.3);

Act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities (chapter E-2.2);

Act respecting school elections (chapter E-2.3);

Election Act (chapter E-3.3);

Balanced Budget Act (chapter E-12.00001);

Act respecting the exercise of certain municipal powers in certain urban agglomerations (chapter E-20.001);

Act respecting Financement-Québec (chapter F-2.01);

Act to establish Fondaction, le Fonds de développement de la Confédération des syndicats nationaux pour la coopération et l'emploi (chapter F-3.1.2);

Act to establish the Fonds de solidarité des travailleurs du Québec (F.T.Q.) (chapter F-3.2.1);

Act to establish the Northern Development Fund (chapter F-;

Act to establish the Sports and Physical Activity Development Fund (chapter F-4.003);

Act respecting the Cree Nation Government (chapter G-1.031);

Act establishing the Eeyou Istchee James Bay Regional Government (chapter G-1.04);

Act respecting immigration to Québec (chapter I-0.2);

Mining Tax Act (chapter I-0.4);

Taxation Act (chapter I-3);

Derivatives Act (chapter I-14.01);

Act respecting Investissement Québec (chapter I-16.0.1);

Anti-Corruption Act (chapter L-6.1);

Act respecting stuffing and upholstered and stuffed articles (chapter M-5);

Mining Act (chapter M-13.1);

AAct respecting the Ministère de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité social and the Commission des partenaires du march du travail (chapter M-15.001);

Act respecting the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications (chapter M-17.1);

Act respecting the Ministère de la Justice (chapter M-19);

Act respecting the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (chapter M-19.2);

Act respecting the Ministère des Affaires municipales, des Régions et de l'Occupation du territoire (chapter M-22.1);

Act respecting the Ministère des Finances (chapter M-24.01);

Act respecting the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune (chapter M-25.2);

Act respecting the Ministère des Transports (chapter M-28);

Act respecting the Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs (chapter M-30.001);

Act respecting the Ministère du Développement économique, de l'Innovation et de l'Exportation (chapter M-30.01);

Act respecting the Ministère du Tourisme (chapter M-31.2);

Act to ensure the occupancy and vitality of territories (chapter O-1.3);

Act respecting the preservation of agricultural land and agricultural activities (chapter P-41.1);

Act to reduce the debt and establish the Generations Fund (chapter R-;

Act respecting the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec (chapter R-5);

Act respecting the Régie de l'énergie (chapter R-6.01);

Educational Childcare Act (chapter S-4.1.1);

Act respecting health services and social services (chapter S-4.2);

Act respecting the Québec sales tax (chapter T-0.1);

Securities Act (chapter V-1.1);

Act respecting off-highway vehicles (chapter V-1.2);

Auditor General Act (chapter V-5.01);

Act to implement certain provisions of the Budget Speech of 30 March 2010, reduce the debt and return to a balanced budget in 2013-2014 (2010, chapter 20);

Integrity in Public Contracts Act (2012, chapter 25).

The regulations amended are:

Regulation respecting construction contracts of municipal bodies (chapter C-19, r. 3);

Regulation of the Autorité des marchés financiers under an Act respecting contracting by public bodies (chapter C-65.1, r. 0.1);

Regulation respecting supply contracts, service contracts and construction contracts of bodies referred to in section 7 of the Act respecting contracting by public bodies (chapter C-65.1, r. 1.1);

Regulation respecting supply contracts of public bodies (chapter C-65.1, r. 2);

Regulation respecting service contracts of public bodies (chapter C-65.1, r. 4);

Regulation respecting construction contracts of public bodies (chapter C-65.1, r. 5);

Regulation respecting stuffing and upholstered and stuffed articles (chapter M-5, r. 1);

Reduced Contribution Regulation (chapter S-4.1.1, r. 1).

Among other things, the Act amends childcare fees, which will vary between $7.30 and $20 per day, depending on household income. According to figures from the Government of Quebec, 30% of families continue to pay $7.30 a day, while nearly 60% of them will pay less than $9.

The law will cut $177 million in fees paid to pharmacists by the healthcare fund (RAMQ), which will reduce the average annual income of a Quebec pharmacy by $100,000. In return, Quebec will allow them to charge three new fees, including the prescription of a drug when no diagnosis is required.

The Elected Regional Committees (CRE) and Local Development Centres (CLD) have been abolished. The government says it wants to lighten its structures, in the same vein as other legislation to reduce "red tape."

The bill gives the government the power to access Hydro-Quebec surpluses, which in the past were used to reduce increases in customer rates.

Mining companies will not have to make public a wealth of data such as the amount and value of the natural resources of the subsoil as well as royalty payments.

With the bill, the government introduced a new mechanism on the front of public finances. The Ministry of Finance will now have to produce a report on public finances, analyzed by the Auditor General, before the general elections held on fixed dates.

The freeze in performance bonuses for senior officials will be maintained for another year. The bonuses remain authorized for executives of Crown corporations.

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April 18 Day of Action Against Bill C-51

Militant Action in Montreal to Defeat Bill C-51
and the Harper Government

A Montreal picket and march on April 18 culminated a Week of Education and initiatives across Canada to give expression to the people's broad opposition to Bill C-51. The day before, activists with the Montreal Committee Against C-51 presented a petition with 84,613 signatures to the office of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau demanding he and his party vote against the bill and heed the call of the people of Montreal for it to be scrapped. Instead of meeting the Liberal leader, the activists faced a line of police officers before they could hand the petition to an office representative.

Joining the April 18 cross-Canada Day of Action against the bill, 50 activists and organizers representing a variety of organizations gathered at the Georges-Étienne Cartier monument on Mount Royal and marched to the Mont-Royal subway station. At the invitation of the Committee Against C-51, participants joined in distributing leaflets to passers-by entitled "A People Against C-51: Our Freedoms are At Risk."

Before the start of the march, a organizing committee representative said that while the Parliament is beginning its final discussion and preparing for the MPs' last vote on Bill C-51, it is clear that the struggle continues because it is an attack against the rights of all that must not pass. The struggle must continue even after its adoption.

The Committee had prepared placards illustrating the targets of Bill C-51, including freedom of expression, the fight for the defence of the environment and the fight against poverty and austerity. A photo of "victims of C-51" was taken with protesters holding these placards, symbolizing that everybody is targeted by the bill.

Representatives of Greenpeace and the Green Party of Quebec also spoke. The representative of Greenpeace, Fred Bleau, explained that Greenpeace often holds non-violent civil disobedience actions in defence of the environment and that they can now, under the bill, be considered as terrorist actions. Alex Tyrrell, Green Party of Quebec leader said that Bill C-51 is the continuation of repressive laws the Quebec people are already familiar with, giving the example of the laws and repressive activities of the Charest and now Couillard government to suppress the struggles against austerity. Both representatives said that the struggle continues and we must remain focussed on the upcoming elections to defeat the Harper government.

College and university students, teachers, activists in defence of the environment, science and human rights for all and activists with the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada (MLPC), Greenpeace and the federal Saint-Laurent-Cartierville NDP constituency organization used the occasion to conduct mass outreach and leaflet distribution to ensure all Montrealers are informed about the Harper government's attack on rights. Locals on the sidewalks and in subway stations expressed their support for the struggle to defeat Bill C-51 and get rid of the Harper government in 2015.

As part of the Week of Education in Montreal, MLPC activists staged their weekly political picket with a focus on Bill C-51 and defending the rights of all. Their April 14 picket, held at the Du College subway station, denounced the bill and the Harper government, engaging dozens of passersby in discussion, including students from the nearby CÉGEP St-Laurent. "We do not like this government," "Yes, it is a good initiative to start organizing right away to defeat it," they said. "It's Harper who is dangerous with his wars and omnibus bills, not the protesters," said another passer-by.

Others took advantage of the picket to learn more about the scope of Bill C-51, which is creating a climate of fear and greater insecurity for all.

In exchanges and discussions during these actions, many people expressed their firm opposition to the Harper government and their great desire for its defeat in the next election.

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