October 24, 2018 10:18 pm

Quebec plans to freeze salary increases for medical specialists

Quebec's provincial government announced Wednesday that it will freeze salaries for medical specialists until they negotiate a new contract.

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The new Coalition Avenir Québec government is vowing to take a hard line with the province’s medical specialists when it comes to their salaries.

Quebec Premier François Legault announced Wednesday that he plans to put future salary increases for medical specialists into a trust until they renegotiate a new contract. The move means those doctors won’t see the pay bumps they were promised earlier this year.

“There will be no new salary increases,” Legault said.

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In February, the Philippe Couillard government struck a $2-billion deal with medical specialists that is meant to last from 2015 to 2023.

READ MORE: Quebec signs $2B deal with medical specialists

Under the agreement, specialists saw an 11.2-per-cent increase spread out over eight years, costing the province $511 million. The doctors are also supposed to get another $1.5 billion — the equivalent of three times their salary increase — spread out over 10 years for what the previous government called its “debt to doctors.”

As a result, hundreds of doctors in Quebec signed a petition rejecting the negotiated salary increases. They said the money should be redistributed back into the system.

The controversial agreement was also hotly contested by the opposition at the National Assembly. The CAQ, Parti Québécois and Québec Solidaire all promised to renegotiate the agreement if they were elected to power in October.

READ MORE: Should Quebec end medical school quotas and hire more doctors?

Legault, who regularly lambasted the Quebec Liberals for claiming they overpaid medical specialists, described the current deal as “unfair” when compared to what other health-care professionals earn in Quebec.

“The specialists earn more than the ones in Ontario,” he said. “It’s unacceptable. It’s unfair because family doctors, nurses, they earn less than their equivalent in Ontario.”

As part of Wednesday’s announcement, Legault also said Treasury Board president Christian Dubé will be in charge of a comparative study of salaries in Quebec and Ontario. He said he wants to save the public coffers up to $1 billion.

—With files from Global’s Raquel Fletcher and The Canadian Press

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

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