The National Assembly rose for the summer on June 10, the last time before the upcoming election campaign in Quebec. A total of 151 bills were adopted during this first 4-year mandate in the short history of the Coalition Avenir Quebec – 28 of which were tabled by opposition parties. Here is a look at five pieces of legislation of particular interest to the businesses.
Bill 96, an Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec aims to reinforce the status of French in all spheres of Quebec society, including businesses. Key provisions include increased obligations to employers with regards to the right of employees to work in French, the knowledge of French at all levels of the company, including senior executives, the intention to apply the Charter of French Language to federally regulated businesses, and increased sanctions and powers for the Office Québécois de la langue française. The new corporate obligations will be phased over three years, but most came into force with the sanction of the Bill shortly before the end of the legislature. Regulations are expected to be published, particularly regarding the new Francisation Québec entity, which will oversee the francization process for newcomers and businesses.
Bill 64, an Act to modernize legislative provisions as regards the protection of personal information, addresses data privacy, from large-scale security breaches to personal information collected and stored by businesses. Notably, companies that collect personal information and offer technology products or services must now ensure that their parameters provide the highest level of confidentiality by default. They must also obtain the free, informed, and explicit consent of the person concerned. Bill 64 ensures that personal data held by companies can be transferred outside of Quebec if the destination has a level of protection deemed “adequate”. The new measures come into force in three phases from September 2022 to 2024, and various regulations have or will be published in the Official Gazette, including on a new notification regime for privacy related incidents, similar to what exists at the federal level.
Bill 59 an Act to modernize the occupational health and safety regime created several new obligations in respect to occupational health and safety regime, in addition to those included in two new regulations: Regulation respecting occupational diseases and Regulation respecting prevention mechanisms. Among other things, employers must implement a prevention program, form a health and safety committee, and designate a health and safety representative. As the provisions of Bill 59 are being gradually implemented, new obligations will come into force in January and April 2023, particularly regarding administrative procedures in connection with the Administrative Labour Tribunal.
Bill 12 an Act mainly to promote Québec-sourced and responsible procurement by public bodies, to reinforce the integrity regime of enterprises and to increase the powers of the Autorité des marchés publics gives the government the ability to define the notion of local purchasing and establish preferential margins for Quebec and Canadian companies in certain public contracts below a certain threshold. The provisions of Bill 12 are being phased in gradually, and sections 1 to 4, which are particularly relevant to businesses, will come into force 6 months after the sanction of the Bill. They relate to defining the notions of local purchasing and preferential margin given to Quebec and Canadian companies, for instance.
Bill 34, an Act to simplify the process for establishing electricity distribution rates, which passed under a gag order in 2019, froze electricity rates for 2020 and tied them to inflation after 2021. The bill also removed certain powers from the Régie de l’énergie to give the government more control. The bill was met with a lot of opposition at the time, with the opposition parties and the major industrial companies objecting to the bill. Faced with the current inflation, the government tabled Bill 43 at the end of the parliamentary session to cap the indexation rate for electric power distribution rate prices. Bill 43 could not be adopted before the end of the 42nd legislation.
Other bills relevant to business, such as Bill 19, an Act respecting health and social services information and amending various legislative provisions, or Bill 44, An Act to amend various provisions for the purpose of reducing regulatory and administrative burden, were tabled just before the end of the parliamentary session and therefore did not pass. However, if the CAQ government is re-elected this October, these bills will likely be reintroduced.