June 3, 2014 6:08 pm

Quebec deficit greater than what PQ let on: auditor general

QUEBEC CITY – The Parti Québécois failed to give Quebecers the full picture when it came to the scope of the deficit, said the province’s interim auditor general on Tuesday.

Michel Samson tabled his independent report at the National Assembly.

He said Quebec’s potential deficit this year is $5.5 billion, not $1.75 billion like the PQ had projected.

Samson added under the PQ, spending growth was spiraling out of control: 6.7 per cent rather than the announced 2 per cent. Moreover, anticipated revenues decreased.

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“For sure it’s not good accountability,” Samson told reporters.

Premier Philippe Couillard said the report confirms what he’s always suspected.

“It shows that issues were not completely disclosed. We were very close to an election campaign. I would not say the PQ is the only government in the past that increased its expenses just before an election, but the size of the increase is significant,” he said.

Former Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau defended his record and insisted he didn’t hide anything: “I think this is absurd, this [potential deficit] is a concept which is absurd, which doesn’t makes sense.”

The auditor’s findings echo those obtained by another independent group. Luc Godbout and Claude Montmarquette warned in April Quebec was heading straight into a brick wall. They showed the province has a history of spending more than it earns.

Michel Samson agreed. He said now isn’t the time for superficial changes.

“We are at the hour of big decisions for the long-term, not just short-term decisions, but to re-establish the financial situation,” said Samson.

The Couillard government is scheduled to present its very first budget on Wednesday.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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