CAQ to invoke closure to pass Bill 40 on Friday, CTV has learned

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The Quebec government will invoke closure to pass Bill 40, a government source has told CTV News.

Legislators have been called to the National Assembly on Friday, at 8 a.m., to complete the process of debating the bill before it is passed, the government source, who has direct knowledge of the situation but was not yet authorized to speak publicly about it, said. 

Bill 40 would abolish school boards and replace them with service centres. Members of the anglophone community have expressed concern that it would violate English minority linguistic rights. 

The Bill also includes changes for a myriad of other education-related issues.

Last week, Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge threatened to invoke closure to pass the bill. On Tuesday, he tabled more than 80 amendments to it. 

Representatives of the Coalition Avenir Quebec hold a majority of seats in the National Assembly. Closure is a rarely used measure that effectively shuts down debate over a piece of legislation and brings it to a vote.

This will be the 4th time the government uses closure to pass a bill. Bill 21 (religious symbols), Bill 9 (immigration), bill 34 (Hydro rates) and now Bill 40 on school board reform. @CTVMontreal

— Amanda Kline (@AKlineCTV) February 6, 2020

Education critics from the National Assembly's other parties signalled their alarm and displeasure as they learned that the CAQ would quickly end debate over the bill. It's the fourth time the CAQ government has invoked closure in less than one year.

"Is it normal that the minister invokes closure, and moreover, so quickly, for Bill 40? No!" tweeted Parti Quebecois education critic Veronique Hivon. Other bills, including Quebec's cannabis legislation, had gone through the debate procedure without closure, she added.

Liberal education critic Marwah Rizqy earlier on Wednesday criticized the bill. "The minister changed his [bill] overnight by tabling 82 amendments," she tweeted. Bill 40 is too broad, she argued. To speed up the bill's passage through the legislature, rather than invoke closure, she suggested it be divided into two: one bill to govern changes to school elections, another to govern all the other reforms included in the bill.

Upon learning the CAQ would invoke closure, Quebec Solidaire spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois tweeted that he hoped it was just a rumour. "Otherwise, it will say a lot about the respect that François Legault and his ministers have for parliamentary democracy."

With files from Amanda Kline