In recent weeks, many observers have called on the Quebec government to end the state of health emergency. Let us recall that, by a recent decree, the state of health emergency has been extended until March 25, 2022, but at the same time, the government has tabled in the National Assembly the Bill 28 (An Act to End the Health Emergency) which aims to provide a framework for the transition period that will follow the end of the state of health emergency.
Bill 28 provides that the state of health emergency, declared on March 13, 2020 (see a previous post) and renewed by the government every 10 days since, “ends.”
It also provides that ” measures provided for by orders of the Minister of Health and Social Services under section 123 of the Public Health Act… […] that are in effect at the time the state of health emergency ends shall remain in effect until December 31, 2022 ». Several groups have criticized this wording as being too vague. In a press conference, the Minister of Health and Social Services specified that only certain decrees would remain in force, notably the one concerning the conclusion of contracts by mutual agreement. If this decree is indeed maintained in force, the institutions of the health network will theoretically be able to continue, for the time being, to enter into the contracts they deem necessary to protect the health of the population, “without delay and without formality“. However, this statement must be qualified: even if the decree remains in force, it will be more difficult, in practice, to justify entering into a contract by mutual agreement rather than by invitation to tender if the state of health emergency has ended. This warning also applies to public and municipal agencies that would like to use the “emergency” exception to award a contract by mutual agreement in the next few weeks or months.
Also in the area of contract management, this bill provides for the following:
Notwithstanding any inconsistent provision of the Act respecting contracting by public bodies (chapter C-65.1) or of any other Act or regulation, contracts entered into by the Minister or by a health and social services institution during a state of health emergency pursuant to Order in Council No. 177-2020 of 13 March 2020 (2020, G. O. 2, 1101A) and subsequent amendments thereto that are still in effect at the end of the health emergency and that are necessary to ensure the proper operation of screening or vaccination clinics may be extended for a period not to exceed December 31, 2022. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the term or value of any existing contract for the storage or transportation of goods acquired during the COVID-19 pandemic may be extended or increased until the inventory is exhausted. However, the duration of these contracts may not exceed a period of five years following the end of the state of health emergency.
Initial reactions to Bill 28 suggest that these measures will also be discussed in committee.
In connection with the upcoming end of the state of health emergency, another issue to watch is the The Public Health Act provides that, within 3 months of the end of the state of health emergency, the Minister of Health and Social Services must table in the National Assembly a ” event report“. The report must include the response measures implemented during the health emergency and the powers exercised under section 123 (this is the section that provides, among other things, the ability to make expenditures and enter into contracts as deemed necessary). In theory, the government could limit itself in the report to referring to the decree concerning the conclusion of OTC contracts and refer the reader to the list of concluded contracts that is published on the SEAO. However, the opposition parties insist that the report should contain a complete list of the contracts concluded and the reasons why they were concluded by mutual agreement and should therefore constitute a true account.