Quebec finance minister, environmentalists criticize federal budget
Published Friday, March 30, 2012 9:18AM EDT
MONTREAL - Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand expressed concern over certain elements within the new federal budget in a press conference Thursday evening.
The budget, released earlier the same afternoon, caps health transfer payments starting 2018, based on a formula which corresponds to economic growth, as expressed by the GDP.
The plan was initially unveiled in December but Bachand complains that the decision was made unilaterally, without consultation with the provinces.
Bachand also rejects the renewal of an initiative to establish a pan-Canadian securities commission. Previous such efforts have already been rejected by several provinces and by the Supreme Court.
Environmentalists speak out against budget
Quebec environmental groups also expressed displeasure with the budget.
Equiterre representative Steven Guilbeault said that the only good news is the abolition of the penny, a move that will save metal.
Guilbeault denounced the decision to expedite the environmental review process for major projects as Enbridge continues to promote a Northern Gateway Pipeline, a 1,170 km long link between Alberta and British Columbia.
"Once again the Conservatives are compromising Canada's environment and health in order to help their friends in big oil," said Guilbeault.
"We are increasingly compromising the ability of the population and environmental organizations to ask questions, to understand the impacts and even improve the quality of projects submitted," he said.
The environmentalist also frown upon the abolition of the National Round Table on Environment and Ecology, an organization whose mandate was to find ways to balance environmental and economic considerations.
Greenpeace and the AQLPA, a group that fights for clean air, were among the other environmental groups that denounced the budget.
New pension rules also spark reactions
Others expressed concern mostly with the fact that many will now have to work until age 67 to get at their pension.
"Low income people for sure are going to be affected," Joel Serchuk, Financial Securities advisor, told CTV Montreal. "The government looks to provide benefits at age 65 and if they don't what are these people going to do? They may fall through the cracks, there may be problems, they may not be able to afford their standard of living whatever that may be."
Montrealers interviewed in the street Thursday did not express any shock at the new pension rules.
"I expected something like this and if I could suggest anything it would be start saving now for your retirement because the government is not in the business of supporting people who have been working their entire lives and haven't managed to save money," said one.
"It is an entitlement, it is expensive, they have to do something," said another.
With files from The Canadian Press