QUEBEC CITY – As Quebecers brace for an austerity budget, Premier Philippe Couillard announced he will spend millions on a new cement plant. The investment is expected to create some 200 jobs in the Gaspe.
“It’s a project that is fundamentally directed towards exports,” Couillard said.
The government signed a contract with the Bombardier family and the Caisse de dépôt to build the McInnis cement plant in Port-Daniel despite repeated warnings the project would kill jobs at other privately-owned plants in the province.
Cement workers protested in front of the National Assembly on two separate occasions.
“There were questions asked and that’s why our colleague, the minister of the economy, went back to the consortium to renegotiate certain issues, which we think now answer the questions that were raised,” said Finance Minister Carlos Leitao.
Coalition Avenir Quebec leader François Legault warned the deal is costing taxpayers a million dollars per job created.
“It’s only a way to give a gift to people of Gaspesia who voted for the Liberal Party.”
The Liberals are forging ahead with the cement plant while at the same time reportedly cancelling plans to pump $15 billion over the next 10 years in infrastructure, raising fears projects such as the Vaudreuil hospital and the Train de l’Ouest will be delayed.
“Those projects are very costly,” said Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau. “We know exactly where we are as far as the economic situation of the province is concerned so we have to take this into consideration.”
Parti Quebecois Finance Critic Nicolas Marceau congratulated the Liberals for finally coming back down to earth.
“During the campaign, they were not on earth, they said a number of things that didn’t make sense. They said there would be more economic growth because they would be there. You’ll see in the numbers next Wednesday,” said Marceau.
It didn’t stop the PQ from criticizing the Liberals’ unsteadiness so far. Marceau said he hopes the auditor general’s report on Tuesday will be followed by a realistic budget with no tax increases.
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