QUEBEC CITY – After spending 25 hours looking at the big-picture budget, MNAs began breaking down spending estimates on Thursday, ministry by ministry.
The PQ calculated that if the Liberals are serious about dropping spending down to Canadian levels, they’ll have to slash well-loved programs by an additional $7 billion this year.
“The premier is trying to transform Quebec into Alberta,” said PQ interim leader Stéphane Bédard. “Quebec is different.”
Philippe Couillard responded by asking if being compared to Alberta was an insult.
“It’s a very cartoonish way of portraying it. On the contrary, we want to make those programs more solid and more sustainable,” he said.
Quebecers are already getting upset.
A CROP poll published on Thursday shows 45 per cent of people polled are dissatisfied with the government. However, 39 per cent of them wouldn’t hesitate to vote for the Liberals again.
Popular support for the PQ is melting; it’s now down to 19 per cent, behind the CAQ, which has climbed to 29 per cent.
“I think right now we have to talk about the economy,” said CAQ leader François Legault. “We have a plan and it’s our first priority, so of course we are in a better position than the PQ to discuss this subject.”
Couillard said his plan to nurse public finances back to health includes investments in key sectors of the economy. His maritime strategy – paired with Canada’s proposed free trade agreement with Europe – is expected to bolster imports and exports.
The premier had a work session with EU ambassadors on Thursday.
“There are enormous benefits because there will be an abolition of all tariffs,” EU Ambassador Marie-Anne Coninsx told reporters.
“The volume of trade which is already significant will increase even more,” added Couillard.
If Quebecers remain unsure about cuts in the budget, Couillard says they’re bound to appreciate the long-term results. The premier has four-and-a-half years to deliver on promises. In the meantime, the scrutiny continues.
More committee hearings are scheduled for Friday.
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