In Quebec tough choices, sacrifice and austerity are for the common people, not the e

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In a move that seems perfectly symbolic of the sort of politics his government represents, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard announced this week that the five members of the government commission charged with reviewing government programs and recommending where to make cuts will be paid the tidy sum of $1.03 million for about eight months of work.

Commission President and ex-Liberal cabinet minister Lucienne Robillard will take home $265,000 for explaining to average Quebecers where they must make sacrifices.

The message being sent here is unmistakable: Tough choices, sacrifice and austerity are for the common people, not Quebec's elites.
Though his government has been in power only a short time, this is not the first time (external - login to view) it has sent such a message. The government's first budget contained cuts to school boards that are likely to seriously affect the services provided by already underfunded public schools, while leaving the subsidies wealthy families receive to send their children to private schools untouched.

Apparently it is for the children of Little Burgundy to shoulder the burden of repairing Quebec's public finances, not the privileged children who live up the hill in Westmount.

In fact this message is nothing new. From the PQ's “deficit zero” politics of the late nineties to the Charest government's attempts to “re-engineer the state” in the 2000s, Quebec's political leaders have for years been saying that average Quebecers need to make do with less, that government spending is "out of control" and that we as a society are "living beyond our means.”

In 2010, Finance Minister Raymond Bachand called for a “cultural revolution” of austerity. This revolution led directly to the longest student strike in Canadian history and the defeat of Bachand’s government. Now back from exile, and sporting a new leader, the Liberals are set for round 2.

However, a cursory examination of Quebec's recent spending trends (external - login to view) shows a very different picture. With the exception of a spike in stimulus spending following the 2008 economic downturn, Quebec's expenditures as a percentage of GDP have been trending downward since the early nineties. Even at the height of stimulus spending in 2009-2010 Quebec was spending significantly less as a percentage of GDP than it was in the early nineties. This is hardly a picture of out-of-control spending.

Between 2000 and 2008 PQ and Liberal governments combined to deny Quebec $9.8 billion in revenues through a series of tax measures (both tax cuts and deductions) that disproportionately favour the wealthy. For example, the deep PQ tax cuts of 2002 provided the wealthiest Quebecers (those earning $75,000+) an additional $1,709, over six times the amount gained by the neediest (those earning less than $25,000). The Liberal tax cuts of 2007-2008 were even worse, providing absolutely nothing to households with $25,000 in income, $110 to households with $50,000 in income and a whopping $1859 to households with $150,000 in income.

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El Barto
hmm 1.o3 million divided by 5 equals 206k......divide that by 8 months 25 750 $ / per month.... yeah symbolic my ***
Provincial money managed by the upper class tends to favor the .... upper class

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