181 infrastructures on the fast track: more checks demanded at municipal level

The monitoring committee of the Charbonneau commission fears that the rapid start of 181 infrastructure projects could lead to risks of corruption and collusion at the municipal level, while welcoming the increased powers granted to the Public Procurement Authority.

Very critical of its first draft last spring, the committee was delighted in the parliamentary committee Thursday of the safeguards provided for in Bill 66 at the provincial level. In summary, the Public Procurement Authority (AMP) will have supervisory power throughout the completion of the 181 infrastructure projects provided for in the legislative document. Normally, its mandate is only to award contracts.

On the other hand, the monitoring committee of the Charbonneau commission is worried that these exceptional powers will not apply to municipalities. Rather than ordering changes or canceling contracts, as will be the case at the provincial level, the AMP will only be able to make “recommendations” to municipalities.

“The AMP therefore has less power in an environment where the work of the Charbonneau commission has shown significant risks. This is a situation that it would be desirable to correct, ”commented Pierre-Olivier Brodeur, representative of the committee during his visit to elected officials.

In fact, the 181 infrastructure projects provided for in Bill 66 stem from a department or from the Société québécoise des infrastructures. But, as the liberal critic Gaétan Barrette pointed out, the schools, CHSLDs, Maison des Seniors and other buildings that will emerge from the ground will lead to municipal work, in particular water and sewer connections.

In the longer term, the committee would like the AMP’s new monitoring powers to apply to all contracts under its jurisdiction, an avenue that the President of the Treasury Board, Sonia Lebel, is currently exploring.

At the start of the day, Mme Lebel, however, wanted to reassure environmental groups and opposition MPs who fear that the piece of legislation will become a “pilot project” to permanently ease environmental controls.

The Legault government has no “hidden motivation”, she assures us. The bill aims to revive the Quebec economy, slowed down by the COVID-19 pandemic, insists Sonia Lebel, while stressing that the 181 projects are “in an extremely defined sandbox”.

However, last September, Prime Minister François Legault affirmed that his government was studying the possibility of reducing delays in environmental and expropriation processes “in certain cases”. “So, without lowering the standards, I believe there are ways to reduce the time before starting these projects,” he said in English.

But Sonia Lebel assures that this will of the Prime Minister is already expressed in the REAFI, which will lighten regulatory processes in environmental matters, and in Bill 44, which will give more powers to the Minister of the Environment.

Moreover, Mme Lebel rejects criticism from the Parti Québécois, which sees a contradiction between the expansions of Dawson College and the MUHC provided for in the bill and the stated will of the Legault government to fight against the decline of the French language in Quebec.

“The fact of renovating a college which is well established, which is necessary, does not endanger the French language in Quebec”, estimates Sonia Lebel.


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