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Canada 'Quebecers will pay more': Opposition parties blast CAQ's Hydro-Québec rate bill

22:55  07 december  2019
22:55  07 december  2019 Source:   montrealgazette.com

Legault to Pallister: Focus on French services and keeping hockey players, not luring away Quebecers

  Legault to Pallister: Focus on French services and keeping hockey players, not luring away Quebecers Quebec Premier François Legault is firing back at his counterpart in Manitoba over ads inviting public service workers to move west because of Bill 21, Quebec's secularism law.The Manitoba government purchased the print and digital ads, targeting people affected by the legislation.

a large tall tower with a clock on the side of a building: Bill 34 will refund $500 million to Hydro-Québec's clients starting Jan. 1, 2020 and will limit future increases to the inflation rate for the next four years.© Dave Sidaway Bill 34 will refund $500 million to Hydro-Québec's clients starting Jan. 1, 2020 and will limit future increases to the inflation rate for the next four years.

QUEBEC — The three opposition parties teamed up Saturday to denounce the Legault government’s hydro rate bill , describing it as a cash grab that plays into the hands of Hydro-Québec while gutting the powers of the independent energy board.

But Premier François Legault insisted the legislation, Bill 34, is in the interests of Quebecers because it will mean stable powers rates that do not exceed the inflation rate for years to come.

Quebec politicians tell Manitoba to butt out of Quebec's secularism policies

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“The legislation we are going to debate today is a gift for Hydro-Québec and represents a considerable loss for consumers,” interim Liberal leader Pierre Arcand told reporters.

“It’s clear Hydro-Québec will be making money on the backs of consumers. It’s another clear example of François Legault’s pigheadedness, to not listen to all the voices opposed to this bill. Mr. Legault considers Hydro-Québec a cash machine.”

“There is one word to describe what we are experiencing, bullshit,” added Parti Québécois energy critic Sylvain Gaudreault. “It’s bullshit to say they are refunding $1.5 billion because in the end they are increasing rates and altering the powers of an independent institution.”

Gaudreault added that will Bill 34 Legault is realizing an old dream from his days in the Parti Québécois and that is to take control of hydro rates in Quebec as a way of generating money to pay for education and health costs.

Amid political gamesmanship, some Quebec Muslim women enticed by offer to move to Manitoba

  Amid political gamesmanship, some Quebec Muslim women enticed by offer to move to Manitoba Amid political gamesmanship, some Quebec Muslim women enticed by offer to move to ManitobaSeeba Chaachouh, a third-year law student at Montreal's McGill University, says she felt her options shrink after the legislation was passed into law earlier this year. She said the Manitoba government's ad campaign attempting to lure Quebecers is more than gamesmanship.

“Quebecers will pay more to Hydro-Québec,” said Québec solidaire energy critic Ruba Ghazal. “This is what I call a lie. The government lied to us and lied to Quebecers.”

The comments set the tone for what is expected to be a rough-and-tumble day at the National Assembly, which is sitting on a Saturday, a rare event.

One day after the fall sitting was supposed to have recessed for the holidays, MNAs were hauled back in to work by the government, which insists Bill 34 is essential.

Putting the opposition in an even worse mood, the Coalition Avenir Québec government is using closure to bulldoze the bill into law. Closure is a legislative procedure which suspends the normal rules of the house to fast track a bill.

This is the third time the Legault government has invoked closure to push through legislation since it took power about 14 months ago. It used closure to adopt two other controversial laws last June, Bill 9 reforming the immigration system and Bill 21 on state secularism .

PQ leader invokes Louis Riel in call for Manitoba to mind its own business on Bill 21

  PQ leader invokes Louis Riel in call for Manitoba to mind its own business on Bill 21 OTTAWA — The interim leader of the Parti Québécois invoked the 1885 hanging of Louis Riel on Friday as evidence that Manitoba has no business criticizing Quebec for its controversial secularism law. Pascal Bérubé said Manitoba should reflect on its own history when it comes to the protection of minorities, a day after a new $20,000 ad campaign launched by Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister drew criticism from Quebec leaders for taking aim at Bill 21.

Bill 34 is a different sort of bill. In theory, it acts on a CAQ election promise to refund consumers for over-charging by Hydro-Québec. It will refund $500 million to consumers, freeze rates for 2020 and then limit increases to the rate of inflation for the next five years starting in 2021.

The government claims the bill will result in a $1.5 billion refund, but the opposition parties, backed by lobby, business and consumer groups, said the bill in reality does nothing of the sort.

The Liberals, for example, note that Hydro-Québec’s increases were lower than the inflation rate in seven of the last 10 years. Pegging future increases to the rate of inflation will wind up meaning increases.

The PQ’s research team has calculated Quebecers will be paying a total of $600 million more in the coming years as a result of the bill.

The bill also squeezes the Régie de l’énergie out of the picture when it comes to ruling on Hydro-Québec’s rates. Instead of reviewing rate increases annually, Bill 34 will see the energy board only do it once every five years.

CAQ Energy Minister Jonatan Julien and Legault have defended the bill and the use of closure saying the government, faced with opposition obstruction, had no choice.

The dominant power in Quebec: the CAQ

  The dominant power in Quebec: the CAQ Philippe J. Fournier: One year in, the party maintains a commanding lead, and this week could record an historic by-election winHowever, among francophone voters (who constitute the majority of voters in more than 100 of the province’s 125 seats), the CAQ leads the field with 46 per cent of support – more than 20 points ahead of the Parti Québécois, and a crushing 30 points ahead of Quebec Liberal Party. Without a shred of a doubt, Legault would win another easy majority at the National Assembly with such levels of support.

They says after 100 hours of discussion at the committee level, one article of the bill had been adopted.

On Friday, they released a video highlighting what they see as Liberal obstruction tactics.”

On his way into the legislature Saturday, Julien insisted the bill is a good deal and will represent on average $60 more in the pockets of all Quebec ratepayers.

“The opposition parties oppose and the government takes decisions,” Legault told reporters arriving for the marathon sitting. “I am not ashamed of our decision (on Bill 34). I am proud.”

Legault defended the use of closure.

“How much time is considered democratic? One thousand hours? Two thousand Hours? I think after 100 hours the people around the table have said what they had to say. After 100 hours it’s time to be able to vote.”

He contested the figures of the opposition, noting that in the past there were rate increases as high as 5 per cent a year.

“I don’t see how they get the idea we are siphoning money,” Legault said.

The debate is expected to drag late into the night. Given the CAQ’s majority, the bill is expected to pass.

pauthier@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/philipauthier

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