Brief by the Québec Ombudsman on Bill 61 presented to the Committee on Public Finance
On June 9, 2020, Ombudsperson Marie Rinfret presented a brief to the Committee on Public Finance concerning Bill 61, 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.
The Ombudsperson acknowledges the government’s efforts to restart the economy in the context of a health crisis. However, she is concerned about various aspects of Bill 61, which provides that in Québec, the state of emergency will be extended for as long as the government deems necessary. Alongside this, the government would have additional power for amending acts and regulations in several fields. According to the Ombudsperson, there must be a tighter framework for how long the state of emergency lasts and for the exceptional provisions it entails. The Bill also provides for procedure allowing for faster passage of certain regulations. Ms. Rinfret feels that the proposed method will interfere with the right of citizens to participate in the democratic process. The Ombudsperson also raised concerns regarding taxation, the environment, expropriation and accountability.
Lastly, Ms. Rinfret pointed out that the Bill could solve a persistent problem within the correctional community—the transfer of responsibility for the slate of health services and social services. One of her recommendations was aimed at finalizing the transfer as soon as possible.
In all, the Québec Ombudsman made seven recommendations to the Committee on Public Finance.