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Quebec austerity budget: zero deficit policy benefits 1%

Jessica Squires

December 22, 2012

In November we reported that the PQ budget shows how bankrupt the strategic vote was. The PQ exposed themselves as the neoliberals they are. Since then, the picture has become even clearer. We present here a brief analysis of the budget and its impacts.

First of all, as Bernard Rioux observes in his article on Presse-toi à gauche, the left-wing Quebec blog, the PQ has maintained the cuts and attacks on social programs introduced by the Liberals. By insisting on a zero deficit policy, they have a giant excuse to attack workers, women and the poor.

The first step will be a wave of “compressions” – deep cuts – in government departments, which, mirroring the cuts to the Federal public service, will mean the loss of substantial numbers of jobs. Already the budget has announced deep cuts to education, including cégeps and universities – and these cuts are not even contemplated for next year; they apply retroactively to September. Universities must find millions of dollars in savings in this year’s budget – a near impossibility. It certainly places tuition fee reductions, or even continuing the freeze, well beyond certainty. This happens in the context of the Summit on post-secondary education which is supposed to discuss the whole picture, including alternative means of funding universities.

The zero deficit policy reminds people of the moment when, for most, the PQ stopped hiding its essentially ruling class alignment: the same policy was announced in 1996 by Lucien Bouchard. Today’s Marois PQ is no different and in many ways worse. They support the Canada –EU free trade deal, despite their earlier criticism of the process. They are not only continuing, but strengthening the Plan Nord – basically a plan designed to pillage Quebec’s north and aboriginal lands and resources in the name of profit – with Marois shoring up the message of tax havens and subsidies during her recent trip to NYC.

No redistribution or positive tax reforms for Marois’ PQ: only more tax cuts and subsidies for the private sector and user fees for everyone else. More private exploration of the Gulf of St Laurence for oil resources; oil trade with Alberta, Enbridge, and the northeastern US; user-fee models and private funding of public services… far from being indepententist, the PQ are staunch allies of Stephen Harper.

Even shale gas fracking is still a possibility despite the moratorium; only a grassroots mass movement won that moratorium in the first place.

Many PQ members tore up their membership cards with Bouchard’s zero deficit policy. Make no mistake, the PQ is still in crisis; but it will take a movement to defeat them.

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