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Legault government invokes closure to pass Hydro-Quebec rates bill

Last Updated Dec 8, 2019 at 12:31 pm MST

Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks during an Ordre national du Quebec ceremony at the National Assembly, in Quebec City on Thursday, June 20, 2019. New statistics show Quebec is making good on its promise to reduce its share of immigrants in 2019, but the province has cut deeply in the category of skilled workers, which runs contrary to the government's stated goals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

QUEBEC — The Quebec government has invoked closure to pass legislation that will allow it to take control of the rates charged for electricity in the province.

Bill 34 was adopted just after midnight, 60 votes to 39, after legislature members spent their Saturday debating the bill.

The controversial legislation will see hydro rates frozen for 2020 and raised according to inflation after that.

It allows Hydro-Quebec to avoid having to undergo an annual examination by the province’s energy board.

An opposition Parti Quebecois member argued the bill means Premier Francois Legault’s Coalition Avenir Quebec government will renounce its promise to repay $1.5 billion overcharged to Quebecers and will also impose increases worth $600 million over the next five years.

The government has argued the legislation is pressing because it would allow the province to return $500 million in January to Hydro-Quebec customers — a roughly $60 credit for residential clients.

Interim Liberal Leader Pierre Arcand argued there was no urgency — it was simply a Coaltion Avenir Quebec government looking for additional money to finance its election promises.

It’s the third time in six months the Legault government has used closure to end debate on legislation — the last two being Bill 21, the province’s controversial secularism law; and Bill 9, the province’s immigration reform legislation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec 9, 2019.

The Canadian Press