Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Quebec Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau speaks in Quebec City on May 6, 2013.

CLEMENT ALLARD/The Canadian Press

The Quebec government is poised to break a key election promise by confirming it will record a deficit for the current fiscal year.

When Minister of Finance Nicolas Marceau tables an economic update on Thursday, he's expected to officially announce that his government will fail will to meet its promise to balance the province's books by March 31, 2014. In fact it may take another two years before Quebec can reach the zero-deficit target.

Mr. Marceau neither confirmed nor denied a report this week in the Montreal daily La Presse that he would project a $2.5-billion deficit for the current fiscal year and $1.75-billion for 2014-15.

Story continues below advertisement

But he recognized that Quebec's slower-than-expected economic growth, decreased consumer spending and reduced company profits were putting a serious dent in the government's projected revenues.

"There is no one here that is saying that everything is perfect in Quebec. That being so, economic growth is moderate … We projected 1.3-per-cent growth this year. The numbers show it will be around 1 per cent," Mr. Marceau said in response to questions by Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault, who attacked the Parti Québécois over "compulsive spending."

The minister attempted to reassure the financial markets by insisting that the province has kept program spending under tight control and that the drop in revenues, due to a sluggish North American economy, was beyond his control.

Mr. Marceau asserted that the government was still on target to reduce Quebec's gross debt to 45 per cent of the province's gross domestic product by 2026, but the opposition argued that the increased deficit put the province's credit rating at risk.

"The government needs to establish a plan for reaching a zero deficit as soon as possible. There is a serious risk here for the province's credit rating," Mr. Legault said.

Only two months ago, the PQ minority government reiterated its "firm commitment" to reach a zero deficit during the current fiscal year. It was the target set by the former Liberal government, which the PQ had also promised to meet.

The government's backpedalling began earlier this month when it became obvious that the province's economy had failed to generate much growth. Even Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard recognized last week the need for the government to delay reaching zero deficit by another three to four years: "For the coming year, we have to get as close as possible to a balanced budget and then have a plan for the next two or three years that will be solidly balanced."

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Couillard's comments may give the government a reprieve as it takes longer to balance the books. But the opposition parties were still determined to show that the PQ's failure to meet its zero-deficit target was another indication of Premier Pauline Marois's inability to properly manage the economy.

"Since she can't increase revenues, I ask her to stop any new spending initiatives without first slashing the province's budget by a similar amount. Will she, yes or no, control Quebec's budget?" asked Liberal Opposition Leader Jean-Marc Fournier in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies