Quebec’s 2011 Budget: More of What’s Not Working

Quebec’s 2011 Budget: More of What’s Not Working
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Quebec Minister of Finance Raymond Bachand handed in his 2011-2012 budget on March 17th. Bachand was pleased to announce quite a few means to stimulate Quebec’s economy. But as you will see, it is unlikely that the latter will be “aroused”, at least in the long term.

Uncontrollable Expenses

To begin with, government expenses are totally out of control. In last year’s budget, Bachand predicted that they would “only” grow by 2.8%. Yet, they grew 3.7%, mainly because of the numerous existing special funds. And by looking more closely, one can see that other ministries like Health (3.6%) and Family and the Elderly (6.1%) have gone over the 2.8% barrier. These crazy expenditures, combined with a CPI of 2.2%[ref][/ref]–which the government says is partly due to the increase in the QST – are making the future glum for La Belle Province. And with a predicted decrease in the active population starting in 2014, both the Health and Family and the Elderly ministries will grow in the next few years.

Despite all this, the Charest government finds consolation in stating that every other province except BC has a rate of increase in expenses superior to Quebec. However, it fails to mention that the other provinces have a lot less debt. According to the Montreal Economic Institute[ref][/ref], Quebec’s public sector debt – everything that falls under its control like schools, hospitals and municipalities – will reach $234 billion by March 31st. With a $267.48 billion GDP at market price[ref][/ref], this yields an 87.7% debt rate, the fifth worst in the world.

In other words, this looks very bad for Quebec’s credit rating. Already, Moody’s[ref][/ref] has warned that without a few sacrifices, Quebec’s credit rating will fall, which will make borrowing more costly. Moody’s has rated Quebec Aa2, two steps below the maximum level of Aaa. Standard and Poor’s is more pessimistic than Moody’s. The former gives a rate of A+ to Quebec, four steps below the maximum and normal level for a government.

Pillaging Wealth

Like any other government that prefers increasing expenses rather than decreasing spending, the Charest government has decided to rob a little more of the wealth created by the private sector.

It is clearly stated in the budget: With even profitability, a mining company now has to pay 13% more taxes and royalties in Quebec than the Canadian average, and 40% more than Nevada and Alaska, “Two states with vast mineral resources.” Quebec brags about taxing more than other jurisdictions, for crying out loud!

These measures are likely to be the same for the developing shale gas industry. Indeed, a progressive rate of royalties is soon going to be implemented. The more profitable a well is, the more royalties the owner will have to pay – up to 35% for the best ones. But in order to fool people on how counter-productive such measures would be, the government claims that royalties exist “so that society as a whole can benefit from this new creation of wealth” and that they “insure that the people will have their fair share of the wealth created while safeguarding an intergenerational equity”.

Who cares whether the debt is going to drown us or whether wealth creation always benefits society as a whole? Like a vampire, the government must suck out as much money as it can out of wealth creators. Because everyone knows the latter will happily keep creating wealth even when they know they have to pay more out of it. Oh, and let’s not forget about the mercantile fallacy that “some two billion dollars are spent by Quebec in order to import natural gas from Western Canada… this money would increase Quebec’s GDP”.

Because no matter how much money a government can have, it will always run out of it. Even Alberta is following this trend. It has shown a deficit in its budget for three consecutive years despite high oil prices. In short, should governmental bureaucracy one day administer the air we breathe, we will run out of it in only a few months.

Take the People by the Hand

Indeed, governments never run out of money when it comes to spending other people’s hard earned money. Here are just a few senseless measures found in Bachand’s budget:

  • The promotion of the use of wood. Because this resource is used less than others, the government took the initiative to promote it. By using our money, the government is promoting a single resource and is excluding the others. It looks like the US embargo on softwood lumber didn’t teach anything…
  • The promotion of entrepreneurship. Because Quebec doesn’t have enough entrepreneurs, and since most of the existing ones will retire soon, the government, of course, has to do something about that. More than $350 M will be spent, whereas a simple decrease in both the bureaucratic[ref][/ref]and the fiscal burden would certainly encourage future entrepreneurs to take risks and start up their own corporation.

  • The promotion of culture. In Quebec, this sacred cow is pampered like no other. Since so many artists are incapable of self-promotion in Quebec or elsewhere, they obviously need the government to help them. This year, it is proposed, among others, that independent movies be digitalized and that independent movie theatres receive funds to access digital technologies, since “the government thinks it’s important to keep movie theatres all over the province”; there will be (yet) another special fund to promote cultural projects internationally “generating an important spillover in Quebec; and there will be a grant “to help with the distribution of work in arts and literature”.
  • Finally, what would a modern, Western budget be like without environmental and social measures? There is going to be a push towards solar power – despite the fact that pouring massive public funds into such domain inevitably leads to doom[ref][/ref]
  • and towards more social housing, despite the fact that this tends to breed crime.[ref][/ref]

Let Quebecers Handle Themselves

I do hope that Quebec will one day elect a political party whose main goal is to empower its constituents. Indeed, a government’s main role is to administer justice and defence. It shouldn’t administer ANYTHING ELSE, at least not as a monopoly (electricity, education, healthcare). Should this day come, then Quebec will go from being a beggar to being an economic superpower. One can always dream…



  • antoine

    Please have a look :

    Québec is going into a wall with a nice mirage in front of it : "Union governed social democracy".

  • julio514

    …a government’s main role is to administer justice and defence. It shouldn’t administer ANYTHING ELSE, at least not as a monopoly (electricity, education, healthcare).

    Yeah, like that we can all have a prohibitive under-performing shitty healthcare system like the one they have in the US. At the same time why not dismantle the public educational system like they did in California in the last 20 yrs? Geeezz . On top of that your are citing the Montreal Economic Institue!! Très crédible!

    • mstob

      I don't know much about the Californian education system but I can tell you that the US healthcare system is among the most regulated, monpolized, subsidized, licensed, and patented in the world. Just because there is no direct government administartion does not mean that there is a free market.

      Here is a good article.

    • lemoutongris

      "under-performing shitty healthcare system like the one they have in the US"

      this "shitty" system is actually quite performing compared to Canada :,3746,en_2649_34

      and I agree with Mstob: the system is quite regulated. To practice medicine, you need an expensive licence and years of studying; insurance companies are balkanized within a State…

      "On top of that your are citing the Montreal Economic Institue"

      You have a more credible source that tells the opposite?

Profile photo of Pierre-Guy Veer

Pierre-Guy Veer est un journaliste indépendant. Tel un enfant, il poser des questions que personnes ne semble vouloir poser dans la terre des vaches sacrées, le Québec.

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