May 7, 2014 5:13 pm

Quebec Liberals looking to cut billions in spending

QUEBEC CITY – Liberal ministers meeting in Quebec City came bearing bad news.

“We’re trying to see every program that we have and see where we can do things that are responsible and satisfying for the population because that’s the mandate they gave us,” said Family Minister Francine Charbonneau.

Every program in every department is being reviewed, with the alleged objective of reaching $2.4 billion in cuts.

Ministers, however, remained vague on Wednesday, neither confirming nor denying the amount.

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“We’re not cutting; we are reducing the rate of growth of spending,” said Finance Minister Carlos Leitao. “When you see the budget, program spending in 2014-2015 will still be higher than in 2013-2014, but we are making all kinds of efforts to contain the pace of growth.”

The lion’s share of the spending cuts could come out of the health department. Health Minister Gaétan Barrette finds himself in the uncomfortable position of trying to push back the very raises he negotiated for doctors when he was head of their federation.

“I’m not negating anything, I’m not there, I’m here as a health minister, I’m here to negotiate and make decisions,” he told reporters.

Pushing back those raises would represent $700 million in savings this year.

The Education ministry is also targeted. It is expected to slash bureaucracy by $500 million, all the while sparing front-line services.

President of the Treasury Board Martin Coiteux said the pain should be short-lived.

“We don’t want to have to repeat the exercise that we’re doing right now,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s a question for the Quebec taxpayer to get a return for his money.”

Later, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard received some advice from the visiting Premier of New Brunswick.

“Ultimately without growing the economy you can never get there,” said David Alward.

The table is set for an austerity budget in June. The Liberals argued it’s not all doom and gloom. They said they will also launch job creating initiatives, which they hope will bolster the economy.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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