Charest attempts to seduce voters with austerity plan
Published Friday, August 17, 2012 4:24PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 17, 2012 6:27PM EDT
As his rivals make elaborate spending promises, Liberal leader Jean Charest spent the 17th day of the campaign trying to seduce voters with a less-sexy approach: promising financial restraint and responsible financial management.
The Liberal leader stressed the importance of budgetary rigor in uncertain times, while speaking in Quebec City Thursday, echoing the strategy that helped launch him to a majority government in the most recent fall 2008 election.
The Liberals would spend $245 million on average per year for the upcoming mandate, according to the premier’s arithmetic, totaling $3.7 billion over five years.
“What we propose in this financial framework is in line with what we have done in recent years,” he said, noting that economic management remains one of the issues that makes Liberals popular with voters.
If returned to power, the Liberals would cap spending and aim to avoid budgetary deficits by cutting departments, agencies and crown corporations.
The Liberals would limit spending increases to two percent in 2014-15, one percentage point lower than what had been previously announced.
Charest said that the cuts would be made across the board, hitting “all aspects of administrative and management costs,” but promised that the population would be spared from the pain.
Charest, flanked by his Finance Minister Raymond Bachand, also promised that there would be no tax increases,
“Europe is in crisis, it will experience record unemployment, the U.S. economy is not taking off, emerging economies are idle. The threat is real, it is not invented, it is not exaggerated,” he said.
Charest refused to be drawn into a small controversy involving one of his ministers Serge Simard, who recently praised Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay’s for his attack on PQ candidate Djemila Benhabib.
Tremblay said that Benhabib should not participate in the crucifix debate because she is not from Quebec.
“The election must be on ideas and issues, not on the origins of each candidate,” said Charest.
Charest then spent the afternoon meeting with leaders of the Quebec farmers union, known as the UPA.
-With files from The Canadian Press