Advertisement

Que., Ont. budgets reveal different approaches: experts

Analyzing Quebec’s 2018 budget, Tues. March 27, 2018. Global News

In Canada’s largest provinces, two Liberal governments on the ropes as they gear up to fight for re-election have made their last fiscal plays to score points with voters — but with two vastly different plans.

READ MORE: Will Quebec budget 2018 affect you? Short answer: yes

While both the Quebec and Ontario governments promised to dole out billions of new dollars in their final budgets before each province heads to the polls, the two documents clash when it comes to their bottom lines.

Quebec, which tabled its budget Tuesday, balanced the books and laid out plans to pay down debt.

Ontario’s plan, delivered a day later, plunged the province back into deficit and projected it would stay in the red for six years.

READ MORE: Quebec premier criticized for saying the government has too much money

Experts say the two fiscal blueprints reveal contrasting approaches to governance and electoral strategy, though it’s unclear whether either will manage to turn the tide.

Story continues below advertisement

WATCH BELOW: Carlos Leitao explains all the spending in Quebec budget 2018

Click to play video: 'Quebec budget 2018: Carlos Leitao explains all the spending' Quebec budget 2018: Carlos Leitao explains all the spending
Quebec budget 2018: Carlos Leitao explains all the spending – Mar 28, 2018

“It’s striking how they are so different from each other even though in both cases people are saying there’s kind of a spending frenzy,” said Genevieve Tellier, a political science professor at the University of Ottawa.

“We’re spending a lot in Quebec and in Ontario, but we’re not spending on the same things or the same way.”

Quebec’s spending package precisely targets who will get funding or tax relief with narrow programs, she said.

READ MORE: When it comes to the economy, Quebec has earned top bragging rights in Canada

Meanwhile, Ontario’s plan spreads the money widely in an effort to please everyone, she said.

Story continues below advertisement

“In Ontario, we’re now seeing a new vision about the welfare state… we’ll cover new services, health services, mental illness, medication, education, child care, really extending what the state is doing to help,” she said.

“While in Quebec there’s not this vision of the welfare state. If you deserve to be rewarded, you’re going to be rewarded… and who are the deserving people? They are those who contribute economically to the economy, to the province.”

READ MORE: Liberals run deficit, introduce new spending in Ontario budget 2018

Ontario’s Liberals tabled a $158.5-billion budget that pumps billions into health care, child care, and support for seniors, but reneges on a key government promise to balance the books — a goal they achieved last year for the first time in a decade.

WATCH BELOW: Breaking down the Liberal fiscal plans in Ontario budget 2018

Click to play video: 'Ontario Budget 2018: Breaking down the Liberal fiscal plans for 2018-2019' Ontario Budget 2018: Breaking down the Liberal fiscal plans for 2018-2019
Ontario Budget 2018: Breaking down the Liberal fiscal plans for 2018-2019 – Mar 28, 2018

Meanwhile, the provincial debt is projected to be $325 billion in 2018-2019, and interest payments this year will cost Ontarians $12.5 billion, making it the fourth largest spending item in the budget.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: How the 2018 Liberal budget will affect Ontario families

Quebec’s budget, presented a day earlier, boosts spending by 5.2 per cent and pours big money into health and education, two sectors forced to cut tens of millions of dollars earlier in the Liberals’ mandate.

The province also launched an aggressive plan to spend $2 billion a year over five years to lower the province’s debt.

READ MORE: Peter Simons urges Quebec to amend tax code, says it’s an ’emergency’

Gross debt has decreased for three years in a row and stood at $204.5 billion as of March 2018.

Ontario’s finance minister, Charles Sousa, bristled at the comparison earlier this week, saying that Quebec benefits from billions more in equalization payments from Ottawa and has a higher debt to GDP ratio than Ontario does.

READ MORE: Here’s a quick look at the highlights in Ontario budget 2018

Ontario’s fiscal position nonetheless remains less than stellar compared to its eastern neighbour, said Jean-Paul Lam, an economics expert at the University of Waterloo.

WATCH BELOW: Quebec budget 2018 reaction, something for just about everyone

Click to play video: 'Quebec Budget 2018 reaction, something for just about everyone' Quebec Budget 2018 reaction, something for just about everyone
Quebec Budget 2018 reaction, something for just about everyone – Mar 27, 2018

“At the end of the day, I think Quebec was more prudent in the sense of planning for the medium and long run, they got maybe a bit luckier than us in terms of economic growth, but I think this (Ontario) government is simply not concerned with deficit going forward,” Lam said.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Here’s what you need to know about the Liberals’ drug and dental plan in Ontario budget 2018

The Ontario Liberals’ lavish spending is concerning from an economic standpoint but could work out well for them politically, he said.

Expanding social programs backs the New Democrats into a corner and forces the Progressive Conservatives to either lay out which services they would axe or admit they would also run a deficit, he said.

READ MORE: Quebec premier hears liquor law updates don’t go far enough for microbreweries

In Quebec’s case, what the Liberals have presented is not dramatically different from what their rivals are likely to offer, but voters might still respond because the party has proven it can afford its promises, he said.

WATCH BELOW: Ending the gender wage gap in 2018 Ontario budget

Click to play video: '2018 Ontario Budget: Ending the gender wage gap' 2018 Ontario Budget: Ending the gender wage gap
2018 Ontario Budget: Ending the gender wage gap – Mar 28, 2018

Tellier, from the University of Ottawa, said she believes Ontario’s Liberals are more likely to benefit from their budget, but that advantage may be short-lived if the other parties present compelling plans of their own.

Story continues below advertisement

“In both cases, the same reasons exist why voters don’t like those two parties — it’s that they have not been consistent over time,” she said.

Both governments have touted fiscal responsibility only to present a big-spending budget in an election year, she said.

READ MORE: Quebec to cut taxes for small, medium sized businesses

While Quebec remains in the black, it does so by drawing on reserve funds after years of belt-tightening in the name of prudence, she said.

That kind of behaviour could spur cynicism among voters and sour some of the goodwill earned through budget spending, she said.

ANALYSIS: Could the Ontario 2018 budget be Kathleen Wynne’s last?

Ontario voters go to the polls in June and Quebec’s in October.

Sponsored content