By Kevin Woodhouse
“Quebecers pay more for interest on the debt than the education budget.”
Within the last 40 years, only six Quebec provincial budgets have come in balanced and last week’s budget from the Liberal party was a campaign promise fulfilled.
Highlights of the budget include no increase in taxes for citizens and slight increases for health and education. By 2017, the unpopular health tax imposed by the previous PQ government will be fazed out, money has been allotted to build 1,500 more social housing units as well as aid senior citizens on fixed incomes with upcoming municipal taxes.
The Suburban spoke to Minister of Government Administration and Program Revision, Treasury Board President and Nelligan MNA Martin Coiteux for his post-budget reactions.
“The consequences of Quebec, the most indebted province in the country, not returning to budget balance was no longer feasible considering Quebecers pay more for interest on the debt than the education budget,” Coiteux told The Suburban.
Upcoming priorities will be to ensure that “we can restore and maintain a balanced budget for years to come in order to help businesses keep more money in their pockets while hiring more workers,” the Treasury Board president said adding that “being rigorous in our spending will remain in place.”
While it was Finance Minister Carlos Leitão who rose in the National Assembly last week to deliver the budget, Coiteux’s work at the treasury board has been vigorous in trying to “renovate our province through reviewing and changing programs while overhauling the government.
“The province can longer function with a maxed out credit card,” said Coiteux. “We want to reduce the fiscal burden in order to attain a more sustained and prosperous economy.”
By adhering to a “disciplined framework over the next two years, our debt to GDP will decline which will set us on a path towards more tax breaks.”
Another way the government wants to improve small to medium businesses is to lower taxes for them, allowing companies to invest in innovation and personnel. “It will be a very significant eercise on our part, before the end of our first mandate, to reduce the overall taxation rates for small, medium and large enterprises too,” Coiteux said.
The Treasury Board president is hoping to get Quebec’s business tax to be in par with those in Ontario as “a way to encourage work and long term investment in Quebec,” Coiteux said.
Another initiative from the government will be the creation of a “fiscal shield for people will lower incomes as well as helping welfare recipients join the work force,” added Coiteux.