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Paul Beaudry

Will Ontario become the new Quebec?

Several public sector labour unions have recently released attack ads denouncing Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak’s plan to reduce government spending. Because wages and benefits make up approximately half of the Ontario government’s spending, it is unsurprising that unions would oppose the PC leader. Hudak has pledged himself to fiscal discipline and promises to rein in Ontario’s ballooning deficit. While veiling their rhetoric by citing “the public interest”, the unions’ claims about the “catastrophic” consequences of the Tory leader’s proposed spending cuts should not be mistaken for anything but self-interest. Ontario’s public finances are stretched thin, and maintaining the big-spending status quo is not a viable option. You want proof? Just look at my native province of Quebec. Quebec has been living beyond its means for years. Because nothing is too good for the working class, successive Quebec governments have implemented social programs that no other Canadian province – no matter how rich – considers within its means. Chief among these programs is heavily subsidized university education and a generous $7-a-day daycare program. Quebec’s expensive welfare state has, however, come at a cost: high taxes and debt. Quebec remains one of the most highly taxed jurisdictions in North America. It carries the largest debt load in Canada, which amounts to 49% of Quebec’s GDP. Economic growth has been the primary victim of Quebec’s provincial governments. A recent study by the HEC Montreal’s Center for Productivity and Prosperity shows that Quebec’s economic performance has declined over the last thirty years. Since the standard of living has eroded, Quebeckers have come to rely on debt to improve their condition. And this dependency has deepened over the years. Interest payments on Quebec’s debt amounted to $9.8 billion in 2012-2013, more than 11.4% of government revenue. Quebec’s public finances are in such a dire… Read More