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National Assembly hydro bill debate continues into Saturday night
QUEBEC -- National Assembly debate over a bill that would simplify the process to establish electricity distribution rates has resumed after MNAs took a recess.
The debate resumed at around 9:30 after a break of over two hours.
The Francois Legault CAQ government chose to force the expeditious passage of the bill by invoking a gag order.
This exceptional legislative procedure allows the government to suspend the standard rules in the assembly and limit the time for debate.
Premier Legault has been saying for days that he does not have a choice because he faces obstruction from opposition parties.
Opposition parties do not understand the government's eagerness; they point out that the vast majority of the groups that came to testify before a parliamentary committee have serious doubts about the benefits of the bill for consumers.
Bill 34 would return $500 million to Hydro-Québec customers, freeze electricity rates in 2020 and then tie them to inflation as early as 2021. It would weaken the Régie de l'énergie by removing some of its powers.
It is the government's response to the issue of Hydro-Québec overpayments. With this bill, the government claims to give Quebecers $1.5 billion, an assertion disputed by most experts.
Consumers' associations, major industrialists, the three opposition parties and four former ministers have spoken against the bill in recent months.
It will be a third gag order in six months for the CAQ government. Last June, Legault rushed through Bill 21 on state secularism (An Act respecting the laicity of the State) and Bill 9 on immigration (An Act to increase Québec’s socio-economic prosperity and adequately meet labour market needs through successful immigrant integration).