Former premier seriously worried about Quebec's economy
Published Monday, February 10, 2014 8:36AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 10, 2014 6:49PM EST
Former premier Jacques Parizeau is seriously worried about the state of Quebec's economy.
"It's the first time in 30 years that I am worried about the economic future of Quebec," writes Parizeau in an opinion column Monday in the Journal de Montreal, saying there has been an undeniable deterioration in Quebec's finances.
Parizeau, who holds a doctorate from the London School of Economics, cites two studies made public in recent weeks, one by the University of Sherbrooke and the other by HEC Montreal, that show Quebecers pay an excessive amount of taxes and have fallen far behind their counterparts in other provinces and countries in terms of productivity and spending power.
The HEC study also shows Quebecers have gradually been falling behind as the province spends more than it earns in revenue.
When approached Monday to discuss Parizeau's statements, PQ Minister Jean-Francois Lisée left the room rather than answer questions from reporters.
Later in the day, he told CTV Montreal he blamed the previous Liberal government on the economy.
"They dismantled fiscal credits for innovation that put us behind; they let corruption grow rampant and hiked our cost for infrastructure," he said.
Transport Minister Sylvain Gaudreault did his best not to respond.
"Mr. Parizeau has the right to his opinions," he said. "What concerns us is that we continue our work creating jobs for Quebecers."
Two studies by Quebec universities
The Sherbrooke study shows that unless Quebec's government makes a sea change in its spending ways, the province faces "an apocalypse" in the next 35 years.
The HEC study shows that Quebecers have gradually been falling behind as the province increasingly spends more than it earns in revenue.
Last week the HEC study's author, Robert Gagné, said that Quebec has spent too much time and money attempting to erase social inequality at the cost of growth.
He cautioned that it would soon become essential to drastically scale back public services in order for the province and citizens to live within their means.
Gagné said $7-a-day "daycare is a nice program, if we can afford it."
Parizeau seems to agree, saying the province is in dire need of some "shock therapy."
Instead of investing in in large projects and offering hefty tax breaks, such as last week's $450 million funding of a cement plant in the Gaspé, Parizeau said it would have made much more sense to devote that money to small and medium-sized companies.
Praise from business community
Business leaders praised Parizeau for his frank assessment.
"Clearly Mr. Parizeau made a good point today," said Michel Leblanc of the Montreal Board of Trade. "We have been saying for a while now that the confidence in the economy in Montreal has been deteriorating for a good year now... It's worrisome. While we've seen other North American cities that the confidence is growing, it isn't here."
"We need a solution right now," he continued.
Gift for opposition
For opposition parties, the warning from a PQ minister who by all accounts has an impressive economic background, came as a gift.
"The priority today can only be about the economy jobs in public finances there cannot be any more sideshows like the charger for the white paper on separation," said Liberal leader Philippe Couillard.
Political analyst Jean Lapierre said the economic issue will hurt to PQ.
"Just opening up the topic of the economy is quite a service to the opposition and quite a disservice to the government because obviously they must be mad like hell today," said Lapierre.