Quebec’s two main opposition parties launched the first full day of the provincial election campaign attacking what they see as the weak flanks of the Parti Québécois on the economy and public finances.
Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard chose the one-time home of the Montreal Stock Exchange to introduce a trio of prominent bankers and economists who are making the plunge into politics.
Economist Carlos Leitao, Martin Coiteux, an economist with the Bank of Canada, and Jacques Daoust, the former longtime head of Investissement Québec, each spoke of their deep concern for trends in the Quebec economy after 18 months since the Parti Québécois took power.
“A morose climate has been established, and private investment has stopped growing,” said Mr. Coiteux. Mr. Leitao described Quebec’s situation as “very weak and precarious” compared to the rest of Canada and the United States.
While the Liberal recruits spoke of worrying long-term trends of aging and lagging growth and the PQ prepared for events to tout the party’s integrity, the Coalition Avenir Quebec made a bold promise to balance the budget within a year.
CAQ Leader François Legault unveiled a plan that would cut spending and freeze hiring in the public service in order to achieve a zero deficit by the end of the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The proposal would reduce spending by $1.3-billion in the next fiscal year and pursue cost-cutting through 2017-2018.
The CAQ leader also said he would seek to get back money “stolen” from Quebeckers by firms who used corrupt or illegal means to win government contracts.
“I am very proud to say that our financial plan is prudent, rigorous and responds to what Quebeckers want,” Mr. Legault said in a press release.
The issue of corruption will also be front and centre of the PQ campaign. Ms. Marois has recruited the president of l’Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec Daniel Lebel as the PQ candidate in Drummond-Bois-Francs. Several engineers were involved in collusion, fraud and mismanagement of public funds unveiled before the Charbonneau Commission on corruption in the construction industry. Mr. Lebel is being showcased as part of the PQ government effort in eliminating corruption in the industry.