September 4, 2014 5:39 pm

Is Quebec’s international affairs ministry doomed?

LA MALBAIE – The Liberals laid down multiple cost-cutting scenarios Thursday in La Malbaie.

Health Minister Gaetan Barrette said he hopes to save $220 million by merging some of Montreal’s health centres. Barrette suggested they could be grouped in with hospitals.

“That’s the direction they’re taking, they will present me the results of their reflection and work and we will see,” he told reporters.

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But there is one merger Barrette said he will not approve. The Constance-Lethbridge Rehabilitation Centre, in all likelihood, will be barred from fusing with three French centres.

“In no way I will accept any merger or whatever restructuring that will affect access to anglophones to care in their own language,” said the minister.

READ MORE: Quebec health minister responds to concerns over cuts to English healthcare services

Meanwhile, figures aren’t any rosier over at the environment ministry.

“We’re looking at better ways to do things,” said Environment Minister David Heurtel. “Our mission is to protect the environment. Are there better, more efficient ways to do that?” he asked.

Liberals were neither confirming nor denying reports Quebec’s international affairs ministry will be abolished. Le Devoir newspaper reported Thursday the ministry will instead be replaced by a secretariat.

“The more creative we are with revision of program, with tax reform, the less parametric cuts we’ll have to make,” Premier Philippe Couillard said.

Economic Development Minister Jacques D’Aoust came out of the caucus meeting to announce his first “creative” initiative: an economic “SWAT team” meant to shore up investments after the Liberals learned of the Laurentide paper mill’s demise in Shawinigan this week.

“Change is tough,” added the premier.

He said he will detail cost-cutting proposals later this fall.

The Liberals discussed program cuts at one of Quebec’s fanciest hotels, the Manoir Richelieu.  Couillard recognized it may be sending Quebecers the wrong message.

“Let me tell you we made all the verifications,” Couillard said. “Of course we had the exact same reaction initially when this site was contemplated, and it so happens that it’s actually the least expensive one.”

The caucus meeting ends Friday with the premier’s press conference.

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