September 8, 2018 5:53 pm
Updated: September 8, 2018 8:01 pm

How the Coalition Avenir Québec plans to pay for $2.6 billion in promises

WATCH: Coaltion Avenir Québec Leader François Legault unveiled his party's financial framework on Saturday and as Global's Raquel Fletcher reports, the plan includes reinvesting in health and education without raising taxes beyond the rate of inflation.

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François Legault unveiled a very elaborate plan Saturday to put close to $2 billion back into taxpayers’ pockets. At the same time, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) is also promising to increase spending in health and education and to better the quality of public services.

Can they do both or is it a political pipe dream?

READ MORE: A CAQ government would expel immigrants who fail to learn French in 3 years

It’s almost halfway through the election campaign, and the CAQ has already made a lot of promises.

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“We want to put $1.7 billion in the pockets of Quebecers, $500 million in education and $400 million in health care,” Legault said.

And that’s not all. The party has plans to increase spending on home care, build new seniors’ homes, and introduce four-year-old kindergarten province-wide.

READ MORE: Quebec parties promise more spending for seniors’ care

The CAQ’s electoral promises come with a price tag of almost $2.7 billion, and on Saturday, the party revealed how it’s going to pay for it during a press conference in Quebec City.

Legault said a CAQ government would grow the economy by two per cent annually, a figure he said is realistic, despite uncertainty around a new NAFTA deal. He also plans to cut down on government waste, which includes getting rid of 5,000 public service administration jobs through attrition.

WATCH: CAQ would expel immigrants who fail to learn French in 3 years

“We’re talking one percent of the total expenses of the government, so it’s actually quite targeted,” said Eric Girard, the CAQ candidate in Groulx and potential future finance minister.

At the same time, it’s committing to annual 4.1 per cent increases in healthcare spending and 3.5 per cent in education.

“What we’re going to do has never been done,” said Danielle McCann, CAQ candidate in Sanguinet and potential future health minister.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s never been tried.

“Each time there is a change of government, you know with the Liberals, we saw the same thing. They had the same speech,” said Marc Ranger, the Quebec regional director for the Canadian Public Service Union (SCFP).

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“To try to get elected by saying there is no efficiency, it is just showing, I think, his lack of knowledge,” Ranger said.

However, Legault is counting on what he calls his “economic squad.” Three dozen of his candidates come from economic backgrounds, including McCann and Girard.

McCann said the party’s plan to change the way GP’s are paid is an example of how the CAQ can both save money and improve public services.

“When we do this you’re going to see a huge difference in the health system. So this is something [that’s] in a way audacious, but I would say absolutely necessary and we have the team at the CAQ to do this,” she said.

Christian Dubé, CAQ candidate in La Prairie added that the public administration law, passed in 2000, requires all government ministries to create strategic plans, put in place indicators of performance and monitor progress.

“Many ministers and organizations are not even following that law. I think the first thing to be done is to make sure that the civil service is having good direction in their strategic plans,” Dubé said.

READ MORE: What Quebecers should expect from the next government – no matter which party is elected

The Liberals say the CAQ’s financial framework is unrealistic and incomplete.

“They are counting on possible savings in spending — four billion dollars, to fund some of the promises they’ve made so far. That’s very troubling when you count on future hypothetical revenues,” said outgoing finance minister and Robert-Baldwin Liberal candidate Carlos Leitao.

Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée said the plan was wishful thinking.

“I see there is also the 649 line at the CAQ. They’re going to win the lottery when they find a lot of money in waste,” he said.

READ MORE: PQ Leader promises tougher French laws if elected

There is another source of revenue missing from the CAQ’s financial framework.

The party has long been promising to renegotiate doctors’ salaries in order to save $1 billion, but it has now left that column blank. Legault said this is proof that the CAQ is taking a conservative approach to its budget.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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