Quebec’s opposition parties are accusing the government of taking too long to relinquish COVID-19 emergency powers and say the delay is helping Premier François Legault and his ministers avoid scrutiny.
Earlier this week, the government renewed the state of emergency for the 99th time since March 2020. Legault told reporters that the emergency order only once passed would allow the government to have certain powers, such as the ability to vaccinate. Passport system and mask mandate.
However, opposition parties say the government should end the state of emergency and debate in the legislature what measures should be taken.
Quebec’s government has used its emergency powers to impose curfews, ban private gatherings and shutter businesses. The emergency orders have also allowed health officials to impose mandatory overtime on nurses and cancel the leaves of healthcare workers.
Liberal health critic Moncef Derazi said the government often used ministerial decrees. Often, he said, the government has not asked the legislature to approve a 30-day extension in the state of emergency, rather, it has used the power of the health minister to extend it by 10 days at a time.
“This is the wrong way to govern,” Deraji said in an interview on Thursday.
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Health Minister Christian Dubey has said he will introduce a bill to lift the state of emergency in March, but he has also said it will be up to the opposition whether the law is passed before June.
The leader of Quebec’s Conservative Party, Eric Duhaime, which has a seat in the province’s legislature but has seen an increase in its support in recent elections, said he thinks the government will be able to introduce the bill to avoid scrutiny. is delaying.
Quebec’s Public Health Act requires the government to submit a report on the state of emergency, including details of contracts that were awarded without public tenders, within a specific period after the emergency order is lifted. If the bill is passed in June, Duhaime told reporters in Quebec City on Thursday that the government could avoid presenting that report until after the October election.
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“The (legislature) will not be in session till November,” he said. “So we won’t have the transparency we deserve until after the next election.”
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Derazi said he was also concerned that a state of emergency would not be lifted in time for the government to focus on its pandemic spending before the Quebecs elections.
“It’s very, very dangerous for me, in a democratic society,” he said. “It’s not their money, it’s Quebec taxpayers’ money.”
A spokeswoman for Dubey, Marjorie Cte-Boileau, said the state of emergency has allowed the government to quickly hire a large number of staff to support the province’s “war on the virus”.
“We can also talk about the many contracts we have with specialty medical clinics that have translated into thousands of surgeries,” she wrote in an email.
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Louis-Philippe Lampron, a law professor at Université Laval specializing in fundamental liberties, said the continued use of the state of emergency raises questions about its legality. He said the emergency order is to be used for short-term crises.
“This is very problematic, because in a democracy, responsible governments have to exercise extraordinary powers with extreme caution,” he said.
Lampron said the government has many opportunities to create a framework for transitioning away from the use of emergency orders during the pandemic. Instead, Legault and his cabinet have made their order contingent on the continuation of the state of emergency, he said.
Quebec on Thursday reported 35 more deaths linked to COVID-19 and 36 fewer hospitalizations. The health department said that of 2,312 COVID-19 hospitalisations, 193 people were hospitalized and 229 people were discharged in the last 24 hours. It said 173 people were in intensive care, an increase of two from the day before.
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