Even if Quebecers represent 22% of the Canadian population, they would only inherit 17.6% of the federal debt in an independent Quebec, calculates the Parti Québécois (PQ) in the “year one budget » which he will table on Monday.
According to these estimates, modeled on those made in 2005 by François Legault in a similar exercise, a sovereign Quebec would see its gross debt swell from 211 billion dollars to 415, 3 billion, which would not prevent it from ranking among the best G7 countries in terms of debt-GDP ratio.
By tabling his own year one budget in 2005, François Legault, then in opposition, calculated that after independence, 18.2% of the federal debt would end up in Quebec. The demographic weight of the province then amounted to some 23.5% of the Canadian population.
According to the PQ's renewed calculations, debts from the federal government would this time increase the gross debt-to-GDP ratio from approximately 40%, currently, to 77%, the day after a winning referendum for the “Yes”. Within the G7, only Germany would be doing better, notes the sovereignist group. And among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, an independent Quebec would rank in the middle of the pack, ahead of countries like the United States, France, Spain and the United Kingdom.< /p>
We not only compare ourselves favorably to OECD countries, we compare ourselves favorably to European Union countries, then we compare ourselves favorably to the United States
— Paul St-Pierre Plamondon
“We not only compare ourselves favorably to the OECD countries, we compare ourselves favorably to the countries of the European Union, then we compare ourselves favorably to the States -United”, enthusiastically launches Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, met in his office a few days before the publication of the document that he has been promising for more than a year.
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In the past, the question has almost always been: “Would a sovereign Quebec be financially viable? » Now that he has his budget at hand, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon sees even bigger things for Quebec.
“It’s a starting point for independent Quebec which is very enviable and very comfortable,” he underlines when questioned about the debt calculated by his teams. “All the indicators are green. We are really in a context where the data is encouraging, and it is an environment that is very positive for building a country, financially. »
No return to balanced budget
As François Legault concluded in 2005, when he was in the PQ opposition, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon notes that the effect of separation on the budget deficit would be clearly beneficial for Quebec.
At the time, Mr. Legault estimated Quebec's five-year budget balance at nearly $14 billion. According to him, independence would have allowed the State to make “a financial gain” of 17 billion dollars.
The observation is basically the same this time. According to PQ estimates, the budgetary balance of an independent state in 2027-2028 would be $12 billion above current projections in a Quebec province.
“PSPP” avoids mentioning a return to balanced budget after five years. In his year one budget, he places Quebec's deficit in 2027-2028 at $5.5 billion. A total much lower than the surplus of 5.2 billion estimated at the time by François Legault.
“I was in chr…”
This is the third time that the PQ has carried out the exercise of evaluating the financial merits of independence. The first portrait of the finances of a sovereign Quebec appeared in 1973. It was the PQ candidate in Crémazie at the time, Jacques Parizeau, who had to defend it… but the idea did not come from him, says Louis Bernard, who headed research at the parliamentary wing of the Parti Québécois in the 1970s.
“To defend him publicly, [Mr. Parizeau] had certain difficulties, he relates. The idea came from [René] Lévesque. It's not really like it's its own file. »
The future prime minister was also entrusted with this mandate during his stay in Mexico. In volume two of his biography on Jacques Parizeau, ex-journalist Pierre Duchesne quotes the politician word for word: “I was in a state of disbelief…”
“Once the decision was made taken, he played the game, says Mr. Parizeau's biographer in an interview with Le Devoir. Even agreeing to hold a debate on television. It was a strange strategic choice, because Parizeau found himself alone against three other parties to justify a completely hypothetical document. »
“Parizeau was never again a promoter of this type of exercise,” explains Mr. Duchesne.
On the contrary, for François Legault, the budget made in 2005 was self-evident. Even though, for him, the advantage was double, with the very real prospect of a race for the leadership of the PQ, underlines an advisor from the time of PQ leader Bernard Landry, who preferred not to be named. “He was looking for a ball to catch and run with. »
“It was a vast exercise,” says former PQ economic advisor Frédéric Alberro, who worked on this document with Mr. Legault. “It’s complex. »
The former collaborator of Lucien Bouchard and Bernard Landry, however, points out that the methodology of the Legault budget had “not really been “challenged””. Former minister Nicolas Marceau, who at the time put his signature on the budget as an expert economist, also remembers a weak reaction from the federalist camp.
“The reactions were on what was not in the budget. Besides, I expect it to be the same this time,” he says.
Today, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon believes that the cumulative evidence is increasingly clear. “Over time, when you have reached six, seven exercises which conclude on the viability of an independent Quebec… Then, when you have reached 150 university studies which have looked into this. There, at a given moment, there begins to be no doubt about this aspect of the project. »
The little history of “year one budgets”
October 9, 1973: René Lévesque and Jacques Parizeau unveil the budget of a Quebec independent in the middle of an electoral campaign. The document forecasts a surplus of $182 million generated through economies of scale.
March 27, 1991: The Bélanger-Campeau commission on the future of Quebec, set up by the liberal government of Robert Bourassa, presents an analysis of the public finances of an independent Quebec. The share of the federal debt falling to the future state is set at 18.5%, unlike 25% for the PQ budget of 1973, which was calculated in proportion to the Quebec population within Canada as a whole.
June 1, 1995: The Minister for Restructuring, Richard Le Hir, presents an overhaul of the study by the Bélanger-Campeau commission in the run-up to the referendum on independence. According to new calculations presented by the Parizeau government, the debt of an independent Quebec would be equivalent to 103% of its GDP.
October 4, 1995: In the first days of the referendum campaign , the No camp, led among others by Daniel Johnson, releases a new study setting the deficit of a Quebec separated from Canada at more than 15 billion dollars.
May 5, 2005
b>: After 18 months of work, François Legault presents his budget for year one, which foresees a surplus from the first year.
Year 2022: The leader of the PQ , Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, undertakes on multiple occasions to publish a renewed budget for the year one, before postponing it. We will have to wait for the electoral campaign of the partial in Jean-Talon, in September 2023, to obtain an official date.
October 23, 2023: Planned presentation of the budget for the year a renewal of the Parti Québécois.
Dave Noël and François Carabin