Quebec expected to table first balanced budget since 2008

QUEBEC CITY — The road to achieving a balanced budget is bumpy — just ask Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao.

In a statement Tuesday, Leitao recognized: “The road we have decided to take is not an easy one but it is the road that will put Quebec’s economic and social development on a solid footing.”

Leitao will present his budget on Mar. 26, 2015. It is expected to be Quebec’s first balanced budget since 2008.

Talking about their budget expectations, doctors from the Regroupement des omnipraticiens pour une medicine engagée (ROME) said they expected better from the Liberals.

“It’s not in cutting the people who actually work in the health field, there are other ways,” said Dr. Simon-Pierre Landry.

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He said patients’ needs are growing and so should services: “We’re really worried that they’re going to cut the money going to healthcare.”

Leitao said the fact is that the new budget will pump more money into healthcare and education, just at a lower rate. The government is limiting spending growth to just 0.7 per cent this year.

“It’s very easy to balance the budget when you increase taxes, cut services and have no plan to develop the economy, it’s extremely easy,” said the Parti Québécois’ Finance Critic, Nicolas Marceau.

The PQ insisted the Liberals had to break several of their election promises.

For example, the Liberals increased Hydro-Quebec rates and daycare fees higher than inflation this year.

READ MORE: Hydro-Quebec hikes: electricity just got more expensive in Quebec

Premier Philippe Couillard’s other promise — to create 250,000 jobs in five years — is still just that…a promise.

In 2014, the opposition said Quebec lost 12,000 full-time jobs.

But the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) said it is convinced a balanced budget could be a new point of departure.

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“When there’s a deficit zero, the fiscal pressure is much lower on individuals who have more money,” said CFIB spokesperson Martine Hébert.

The Coalition Avenir Québec said it expects Thursday’s budget to include concrete measures to stimulate the economy.

“With the Canadian dollar at 80 cents, it’s a very good opportunity to push to increase good jobs in the manufacturing industry,” said CAQ leader, François Legault.

But Québec Solidaire is hoping an economic recovery doesn’t come at any cost.

“Austerity, it’s not good for health, it’s not good for all our social services,” said MNA Manon Massé.

READ MORE: 2 arrested after Quebec anti-austerity protests declared illegal in Montreal

The small, left-leaning party called on anti-austerity protesters to come out loud and strong on budget day.

Students have already committed, but many feel their movement has yet to gather steam.

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