Quebec: Assemblee Nationale

By Ford, Nancy; Beland, Line | Canadian Parliamentary Review, Autumn 1996 | Go to article overview

Quebec: Assemblee Nationale


Ford, Nancy, Beland, Line, Canadian Parliamentary Review


On 19 June 1996, the National Assembly adjourned its proceedings for the summer break having held 41 sittings since the beginning of the new session. During this period, a considerable number of bills were passed, including 37 public bills and 8 private ones. This includes a bill creating the Ministere de la Metropole, whose mission is to promote and support the economic, cultural and social development of metropolitan Montreal.

The Assembly also examined a bill respecting pay equity. The purpose of this bill is to redress the salary discrimination suffered by persons occupying positions in predominantly female job classes. The bill is currently being considered in committee, where special consultations are also being held. As regards the bill establishing a universal drug insurance plan, it was passed following the suspension of certain rules of procedure.

Under the plan, every person residing in Quebec who is registered with the Quebec Health Insurance Board will benefit from basic coverage for the cost of pharmaceutical services and medications. The bill sets out the contributions to be made to the financing of the basic plan by the persons covered, who may be required to pay a co-insurance amount of not more than 25 % of the cost of the pharmaceutical services and medications provided up to a maximum contribution of $ 750 for a one-year reference period.

The provisions of this Act come into force on January 1,1997. However, persons aged 65 and over as well as welfare recipients are subjected to these provisions as of August 1, 1996 and thus have to pay a premium and a deductible amount according to their income.

The passage of two other bills should also be highlighted: a bill that amends the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms in order to secure the right to equality, without exclusion based on sexual orientation, as regards the establishment of contracts and plans relating to insurance, retirement pensions or other social benefits; and a bill that amends the Civil Code with respect to the obligation of support, which corrects what was considered to be an injustice towards elderly persons who were obliged to pay support to relatives other than those in the first degree.

In addition these of legislative measures, Members were also asked to approve the budgetary policy of the Government following the Budget Speech delivered on May 9, 1996 by the Minister of Finance, Bernard Landry.

Numerous directives were issued by the Chair in the last few months. Indeed, many procedural cases were brought to the forefront at various legislative stages of the debates on the controversial bill implementing the prescription drug insurance. The Chair thus denied a point of privilege by the Official Opposition House Leader regarding the advertisement that was published in several Quebec newspapers on the new prescription drug insurance plan proposed in this bill. The latter criticized the publicity for failing to mention the role of the Assembly and of its Members with respect to the procedure followed for the passage of bills.

Mr. Speaker stated that campaigns undertaken by the Ministries and public bodies in order to inform the population of governmental decisions did not constitute a prime facie contempt of Parliament. Nevertheless, government publicity regarding a bill that is still being considered by the National Assembly should mention the role of the National Assembly and of its Members with respect to the procedure followed for the passage of such new measures. Further to this ruling, Mr. Speaker tabled copies of letters he had sent to both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health and Social Services regarding this matter.

Following the tabling of an audio cassette by a member of the Official Opposition, Speaker Jean-Pierre Charbonneau stated that tabling shall be limited to hand-written or printed documents until the proper storage, reproduction and distribution of audiovisual documents can be assured for an extended period of time. …

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