Debate on major health reform cut short after CAQ government invokes closure

The Coalition Avenir Québec government will use closure to push its sweeping health-care reform bill into law before the provincial legislature breaks for the winter holidays.

The move came Friday after the government’s proposal to extend the legislative committee’s work on Bill 15 for four additional days failed.

Doing so would have required approval from all three opposition parties, but there were concerns about rushing through the review of hundreds of clauses. Earlier this week, the PQ suggested resuming work on the bill in the new year.

“It’s been 238 hours that (Health Minister) Christian Dubé has been listening to the Opposition’s suggestions,” Premier François Legault told reporters in the morning. “Do you think more is needed?”

Dubé, for his part, said Quebecers are “upset” and “they need a change on the health system.”

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“I’m tired of going to see in emergencies that the people are not being taken care of,” he said.

By invoking closure, the government limits further debate and speeds up the adoption of one of the largest pieces of proposed legislation in the province’s history.

Bill 15 would create Santé Québec, a new centralized agency to oversee the public health-care system. The bill contains more than 1,200 articles and will make changes to more than 30 existing laws.

The reform has also been criticized over concerns Santé Québec, instead of regional of health authorities, would have the power to revoke a health-care institution’s bilingual status if certain conditions aren’t met.

Click to play video: 'Quebec health minister claims Bill 15 is ‘addressing certain issues’ following two hospital ER deaths'

Quebec health minister claims Bill 15 is ‘addressing certain issues’ following two hospital ER deaths

Marc Tanguay, interim leader of the Quebec Liberals, said invoking closure means the committee will “not have the time to study properly what’s behind the government’s intention and we will not be able to do our job. So, it’s dangerous.”

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Both the PQ and Quebec solidaire agreed. They argue invoking closure on this bill is dangerous, pointing out there are still sections on medical assistance in dying and pre-hospital care that have yet to be discussed.

“It’s unfortunate for democracy, it’s unfortunate for citizens, it’s unfortunate for workers in the system,” PQ Health Critic Jöel Arseneau said.

The decision to limit debate was also slammed by health-care professionals Friday.

The Médecins québécois pour le régime public, which represents doctors in the public system, described it as the “worst decision” Dubé could have made “considering the significant and widespread dissent against his reform.”

“We must take the time to study these fundamental changes for our health and social services system,” the organization wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The process of fast-tracking Bill 15 could take hours. The government is still able to make changes and additions to the reform, so it may continue to be debated until late tonight or even into tomorrow.

— with files from Global’s Elizabeth Zogalis and The Canadian Press

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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