Quebec Liberals want austerity … and growth

CLERMONT, Que. – Premier Philippe Couillard said his government is investing an additional $42 million this year in forestry.

The announcement comes as the provincial Liberal government prepares to deliver an austerity budget in June.

Couillard was in Clermont, about 150 kilometres north-east of Quebec City, in the riding of Charlevoix-Cote-de-Beaupre, where former Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois lost her seat.

The premier also said it would be possible to make cuts in the public sector while continuing to invest in key areas where there is a potential for growth, such as forestry for example.

In fact, Couillard noted that it would be necessary to keep investing in order to avoid creating an economic climate that is too negative.

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“We’re not only talking about austerity because that would put a cloud of negativity around us,” Couillard said.

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“We also want to launch initiatives that are going to create jobs. This is the balance that we need to create, narrow or restrict the rate of expansion of our public expenses, but at the same time create jobs. Austerity and growth or reduction of expenses and growth. That’s what we have to do.”

Couillard is hoping to rebuild investor confidence after 18 months of PQ government, and maintained he has the courage to make tough choices.

The Liberals will table their budget in just a few weeks.

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Already, unions are banding together, calling on the government to increase their salaries by about $2.5 billion.

“Everybody will have a role to play, all Quebecers will have to be involved one way or another in what we have to do this year and in the coming years to put our public finances back in order,” Couillard said.

“Union members also share this concern.”

Last Friday, the Godbout-Montmarquette report recommended the salary mass in the public sector be frozen.

The two experts also recommended the partial privatization of Hydro-Quebec and the SAQ, as well as a two-dollar increase in daycare fees.

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Couillard told reporters on Tuesday that he will ask the public sector to tighten its belt but won’t sell any assets, at least not anytime soon, nor will he increase the tax burden for middle class families.

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