April 25, 2014 7:52 pm

Quebec needs to raise fees, freeze public sector payroll: experts

QUEBEC CITY – Two top economists mandated to take a close look at Quebec’s books say the province is in deep trouble.

Philipppe Couillard turned to Luc Godbout and Claude Montmarquette as soon as his Liberal government was elected.

Their report paints a picture of a province that has been overspending for decades.

For the past 10 years, Quebec’s spending has been growing by 5.5% a year, they said. The average spending target for that period was 3.2%.

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Godbout and Montmarquette said on top of the $1.75 billion deficit the PQ projected for this year, the province has to find another $3.7 billion if it’s to balance the budget by 2015-2016.

They recommended drastic measures to balance the budget.

Premier Philippe Couillard already announced a hiring freeze in the public sector, with orders to increase productivity by 2% of their payroll.

Godbout and Montmarquette went much further in their recommendations, suggesting a public-sector payroll freeze,
a $2 increase in daycare fees over the next 2 years and the sale of up to 10% of Hydro Quebec and SAQ shares.

“If the economy keeps low, what else do we have to convince the credit rating agencies that we are serious about facing our issues,” said Montmarquette.

Quebecers, he said, think they pay their fair share, but it’s a false perception.

“Daycare fees are probably too low and many others. Look, nobody here, including myself, pay for what they receive in services,” he said.

Godbout and Montmarquette also asked that from now on, this type of independent report be tabled before every election campaign, so that Quebecers always have a true portrait of their public finances.

The Liberals are now waiting for the auditor general’s report to table their budget in June.

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