The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. A code red was declared on September 27, 2020 for the major urban areas of Montréal and Québec, while the economy of the province of Québec as a whole continues to suffer. As such, the provincial government is keen to mitigate the economic impact of the virus.
A proposed solution is hastening the development of large-scale construction programs and it was for that purpose that Sonia Lebel, Québec's Treasury Board Chair, tabled Bill 66 on September 23, 2020, before the National Assembly. Bill 66 is a more focused update to Bill 61, the Québec Government's heavily criticized earlier attempt at accelerating the rollout of projects over the summer.
In a nutshell, Bill 66:
- Applies to a defined collection of 181 projects across Québec. These projects are listed at Schedule I of Bill 66 and range from the building of new senior homes to the extension of the blue metro line in Montreal from Saint Michel station to Anjou (Bill 66, sections 1 and 11);
- Tasks the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) with oversight of public contracts and subcontracts relating to the 181 projects, including the tender and award process (Bill 66, sections 1 and 5);
- Simplifies the decision-making process regarding expropriations and, as was the case with the Réseau Électrique Métropolitain (REM), expropriated parties cannot contest the expropriation, only the compensation amount (Bill 66, section 17);
- Authorizes the relevant minister to begin work on an infrastructure project on public lands prior to the grant of the final authorization by the province, provided the work is not incompatible with rights previously granted or other related constraints (Bill 66, section 19);
- Replaces, for most projects, the obligation to obtain a ministerial authorization under the Environment Quality Act with a disclosure and certification regime (Bill 66, sections 23 to 32). Also, for those projects that continue to require a ministerial authorization, the documentation obligations have been reduced (Bill 66, sections 33 to 35). Note that Bill 66 does not relieve any party from building and operating in accordance with the standards of the Environment Quality Act;
- Simplifies the process applicable to certain land rehabilitations (Bill 66, section 36) and narrows the purview of environmental impact assessments and reviews (Bill 66, sections 37 to 51); and
- Prevents municipalities from delaying the approval of projects (Bill 66, sections 53 to 61).
Generally stated, the special regime of Bill 66 is only applicable to projects begun prior to the fifth anniversary of the assent of Bill 66.
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