Liberal finance critic concerned about CAQ overspending in upcoming Quebec budget
In two weeks, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government will unveil its first provincial budget. Its expected to include almost $3 billion of campaign promises, but where will this money come from?
On Thursday, Liberal finance critic, Carlos Leitao said he’s looked at the numbers and they don’t add up.
The government cannot fulfill all its campaign promises and deliver a balanced budget, says the Liberal opposition.
“I don’t think there’s enough financial resources to do both,” Leitao said. “That’s the conundrum.”
This is not the first time Leitao and the Quebec Liberal Party have sounded this same warning. The CAQ, they say, is simply promising too much.
In its economic update last Decemeber, the CAQ announced billions of dollars of tax breaks, including its “baby bonus,” which puts $500 a year in parents’ pockets for having a second or third child.
Finance Minister Eric Girard later tabled a bill to lower and harmonize school taxes at a cost of $700 million a year.
And last month, the premier said he’d move ahead at any cost with a plan for four year old pre-school across the province, something he says will include building new classrooms, renovating schools and hiring more teachers.
“I don’t believe in Santa Claus. I don’t believe in magic,” Leitao said.
“I wouldn’t count on future revenues, you know future, hypothetical revenues to fund current public services,” he said.
Leitao also added that the Bank of Canada is warning about an economic slowdown.
“We had very strong economic growth, 2017, 2018, but now we’re going into a period of significantly slower economic growth, so now we need to be prudent,” Leitao said.
However, economist Bernard Beaudreau said the Liberal MNA might be exaggerating.
“Growth is forecast to be pretty robust this year, despite the fact there is a bit of slowdown,” the Université de Laval economics professor said.
What’s more, there is one very good reason why the CAQ will be able to pay for all their platform ideas, Beaudreau said, and it’s in part thanks to Leitao himself and the previous Liberal government.
“They left the CAQ with kind of a gift, an electoral gift,” he said.
Beaudreau is referring to the $1.7 billion budget surplus the new government inherited when it took office.
“But I mean, it’s also been revised, upwardly revised and now they’re talking about a surplus of somewhere in the order of $4 billion,” he said.
However, even if the CAQ doesn’t break the bank this year, Leitao warns the party could easily run out of money before the end of its mandate.
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