Pauline Marois is taking credit for the increase in jobs last month, which according to the Parti Québécois Leader was a sign of success of her government's economic policy.
As the PQ Leader embarked on a campaign blitz heading into the final weekend of the April 7 vote, the latest job creation numbers served the party's strategy of focussing on a more positive message.
In a campaign marked by personal attacks and mudslinging, Ms. Marois was seeking to recalibrate her message, even making a surprise tax-cut announcement on Thursday to shift attention away from the negative attacks.
According to Statistics Canada employment figures released on Friday, employment in Quebec was up 15,000 in March and the unemployment to rate was 7.6 per cent, down 0.2 per cent from the previous month. Compared to March, 2013, employment in the province increased by 31,000 jobs, according to the federal government figures.
"This is good news for these 15,000 people. I think confidence has returned in Quebec. Our job-creation policies certainly helped a bit," Ms. Marois said while campaigning in Laval.
Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard was campaigning in St-Jérôme in the riding of star PQ candidate Pierre Karl Péladeau as part of a 26-stop tour over four days to end the campaign.
Mr. Couillard and his team of economists have long said unemployment statistics can't be evaluated on a month-by-month basis. But he used the numbers to poke holes in Ms. Marois's attempt to take credit.
"Every job created is good news for the person gets it, and his family. But my problem is we haven't even erased the losses from February," Mr. Couillard said.
The positive job numbers also allowed Ms. Marois to support her late campaign tax-cutting promise. She said the PQ's economic policy will create jobs, increase government revenues and generate surpluses once the budget is balanced in two years. The extra money will be used to cut personal income taxes and corporate payroll taxes, she said.
"First we must reach a balanced budget and once we do, we have to maintain it and control spending….Once we get there and because want to create wealth for Quebeckers, one way of doing that it is to give individuals and companies some relief from the tax burden they carry," Ms. Marois said.
However at no point in the province's budget tabled in February was there any mention of a tax cut. In fact, all of the surpluses projected after reaching a balanced budget in 2015-16 were to be used to reduce the province's debt.
Ms. Marois gave no indication how much surpluses would need to be achieved to reduce the debt as well as cut personal and company payroll taxes. And the PQ Leader refused to speculate on the level of tax cuts she had in mind. She would only say that when she was finance minister under a previous PQ government, she succeeded in reducing taxes and bringing down the debt and that it would be possible at some point to do it again.
Despite encouraging job creation figures, Quebec faces a serious demographic problem with an aging population and manpower shortages in key sectors. The business community has called for an increase in immigration from the current 50,000-a-year level to 65,000.
Ms. Marois refused, saying better integration and language programs will be needed before increasing the number of immigrants in the province. The PQ would use incentive measures to encourage immigrants to settle outside the greater Montreal region. Currently 20 per cent of immigrants settle outside Montreal. Ms. Marois proposes to bring that number to 25 per cent.