Three main [Quebec] parties missing the mark – by Peter Hadekel (Montreal Gazette – August 28, 2012)

Reading the economic platforms of the three main provincial parties is an exercise in frustration. None has a clear strategy for dealing with the pressing issues facing Quebec, like massive public debt, low productivity growth and the demographic crunch hitting the workforce.
All seem to ignore the fact that the economy has slowed to a crawl, with the prospect that government revenue in the second half of the year will come in below expectation. The Liberals have been riding their promise of creating 250,000 net jobs during a new mandate. It’s a target that’s not out of line with past performance, but one that looks much harder to achieve now that the economy has stalled.
They have been notably vague on how they’ll get there, at a time when the manufacturing industry continues to struggle and service industry growth is flattening out. The party is relying on demand for natural resources to drive employment in the mining sector, but much will depend on the future path of commodity prices.
The Liberal plan talks about opportunities to create jobs in clean technology and green industries, but the specifics aren’t clear.
Measures to restore the Montreal economy to its former role as the motor of provincial growth are notably absent.
The Liberals pledge they will accelerate payments to the Fonds des générations from mining and petroleum royalties in order to pay down the provincial debt, with the aim of reducing the debt-to-GDP ratio from 55 per cent by 45 per cent by 2025.
But that’s a strategy based on rosy revenue projections rather than spending compressions, so it’s inherently risky.
The annual cost of Liberal election commitments would reach $1.2 billion by the fifth year of a new mandate and would be financed in part by limiting spending growth to two per cent a year instead of three per cent.
But there are considerable savings that still need to be identified to make the plan work, while preserving the government’s target of balancing the budget by 2015.
As for the Coalition Avenir Québec, it’s aiming at the middle-class vote with the promise of a $1,000 tax reduction that would be achieved by eliminating the $400 health-care contribution and implementing a tax cut for households earning under $100,000.
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