Marois outraged, Coderre unimpressed by federal budget
Published Tuesday, February 11, 2014 10:27PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 12, 2014 3:28PM EST
Quebec premier Pauline Marois continued blasting the federal budget Wednesday, taking exception specifically over the Canada Job Grant program.
An angry Pauline Marois accused Ottawa on Wednesday of acting like a "real predator" with its budget.
"I am outraged," the Quebec premier said. "They are impossibly stubborn and they are making Quebecers pay."
Marois was particularly incensed with Ottawa's insistence it will enforce the Canada Job Grant in just six weeks -- with or without the co-operation of all provinces and territories.
The premier accused the Harper government of imposing a decision and not wanting to negotiate.
She noted the Conservatives want to spend money -- "even though they don't have a system to manage it all."
Marois cast aspersions on the good faith of Denis Lebel, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Quebec lieutenant, who has said he wants to have discussions with the provinces.
She said Lebel, far from wanting to negotiate, is seeking to impose a federal vision on the province.
The Quebec premier also denounced a federal research fund that she complained allows for an overlapping by Ottawa in higher education, a provincial jurisdiction.
She said that instead of doubling up responsibilities, it would be more useful if Ottawa sent a cheque to the provinces.
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty responded immediately to Marois on the Canada Job Grant, saying no province has any business telling the federal government how to spend federal tax money.
"The money that is being put into job creation, job training in Canada, is not provincial tax money," he said in Ottawa. "It is federal tax money.
"If it's federal money, then the federal government can spend it the way the federal government and its elected people choose to spend it. It's not an ultimatum to anybody."
Flaherty added that the provinces have their own taxation powers and can raise their own taxes.
"This is not a confrontation," he said. "This is a choice."
Marois said the budget presented Tuesday will cost Quebecers $9 billion over the years to come as healthcare transfer payments are reduced.
"They are so stubborn it's incredible," said Marois.
"They will make Quebecers pay the price, and other Canadians too, because they will, for example, set up a parallel work training system.
"Each province has its own model and despite everything they want to spend money recreating systems we already have," Marois said.
Mayor of Montreal unimpressed
As a former federal politician, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre isn’t new to budgets, and said he's not impressed by the latest one.
“My smell test is saying something is fishy here,” he said, referring to the Champlain Bridge, a bone of contention between the province, the city and the federal government.
Though $165 million was earmarked in Tuesday’s federal budget for the next two years, it's far short of the estimated $3 to 5 billion that it will cost to replace the crumbling structure.
Coderre said he questions the government's plan to make up that shortfall by the bridge's completion in 2018.
“Right now you have a fight between Quebec and Ottawa and I'm going to be stuck with the people to find a way to make sure we have some solutions,” said Coderre
Both the city and the province want the government to make the new bridge toll free, one of many requests that were ignored in this year's budget, according to Quebec Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau.
“There is no progress on a number of important files we are trying to get solutions for. Nothing. That is the case for training, a securities commission and the case for infrastructures,” he said.
Instead, Marceau said the federal government is going where it shouldn't, by trespassing into the provincial domains of education and health.
Meantime, Quebec Liberal finance critic Pierre Paradis says this year’s budget - and the coming surplus - shows some fiscal restraint, something he said the PQ could learn.
“We were supposed to get to zero deficit before the feds. They're going to get there before the PQ. What happened?”