Photo: Christine Muschi The Canadian Press Prime Minister François Legault, Wednesday, during the first day of caucus in Sherbrooke
Faced with an increase in deficits which could compromise the objective of returning to budget balance, Prime Minister François Legault declared Thursday that he does not intend to resort to measures austerity measures which would reduce services to the population.
Mr. Legault affirmed that discussions are underway with the Minister of Finance, Éric Girard, in anticipation of the next budget. “There is no question of cutting services,” he declared in a press conference. There is no question of austerity. »
Mr. Legault did not elaborate on the elements that will be put forward to balance public finances. According to him, it is too early to determine whether or not the government will be able to achieve its objective of restoring budgetary balance, planned by 2028.
“During the election campaign, we committed to reducing bureaucracy,” he said. So there are already actions that have been taken. We will continue to ask questions, but there is no question of austerity. »
Mr. Legault affirmed that this situation is the consequence of the government's decision to invest more in the health and education networks as part of the renewal of public sector collective agreements.
Before the Prime Minister, Mr. Girard had already declared on Thursday that it will be more difficult to restore budgetary balance due to the improvement of offers to State employees and the slowdown of economy.
“It is certain that the amounts which have been granted are greater than what had been provisioned”, he declared in a press briefing before a meeting of government deputies in a Sherbrooke hotel.
Pressed for questions, Mr. Girard was unable to affirm that a return to budget balance was still possible to predict for the 2027-2028 financial year. “These additional expenses will put additional pressure on the framework of the Quebec government,” he said.
He then admitted that achieving “zero deficit” will be “more difficult” in this context.
The 420,000 members of the Inter-Union Common Front should benefit from salary increases of 17.4% over five years. The agreements in principle are still being approved by these union members, who work in particular in the education and health sectors.
In November, Mr. Girard had already warned that the financial framework did not provide for public sector wage increases higher than the 10.3% offer which was then on the table. “Any additional expenses will require borrowing,” he said.
Mr. Girard declared Thursday that the next government budget will be explicit on the impact of these improvements. “At this point, the deficits are going to be bigger,” he said.
In Thetford Mines, where the Liberals are also gathered in caucus, the interim leader, Marc Tanguay, affirmed that Mr. Girard's comments demonstrate the failure of the government.
“It’s a bad government that has lost control of public finances,” he said at a press briefing. […] We deplore it, there is no rigor. It is a government, unlike the liberal governments that preceded it, which does not have budgetary rigor. »
Moreover, Mr. Girard announced an additional deadline so that taxpayers who had not yet completed their 2021 tax return could benefit from assistance of $400 to $600 from the anti-inflation shield announced in 2022.
For a large portion of the eligible population, whose income was less than $104,000, this amount was paid in November and December 2022.
Those who did not receive it had until June 30, 2023 to file their 2021 tax return and benefit from it. This deadline has been extended to June 30, 2024. The government estimates that approximately 65,000 eligible people could still receive this financial assistance.
With Marie-Michèle Sioui