Truth be told, if the Mafia led a federalist party that promised unlimited English rights, but as a trade-off mob style corruption, we would have voted for them in droves.
Come to think of it, we did!
But the war over English language rights and Quebec sovereignty is over, both suffering an ignominious and lasting defeat, raising the question as to whether we should continue to support the ageing Liberals or bolt to the CAQ.
So let's take stock of where we are.
It seems to me, that vis-a-vis Anglo rights, we have sunk as low as we can go.
No party is willing to increase those rights and none, even the PQ is looking to further erode our community. It is a question of kicking the proverbial dead horse when it's down, and where retribution against the Anglo community for real or imagined slights is no longer a driving voter issue.
In fact, gratuitously picking on the Anglo community is probably viewed by the majority of francophone voters as a bit mean-spirited and certainly uncalled for given the circumstances, and like a dominant sports team pummelling the opposition, running up the score is viewed as poor sportsmanship.
Sadly for us, Anglos no longer matter in Quebec, neutralized as a political or economic force over the last forty years that saw Anglo companies and Anglo children driven out of the province to the point where we are today, like the PQ, an irrelevant and spent political force.
If as a voter you are asking yourself which party will better represent Anglo interests, don't bother.
Even the dead-in-the-water PQ represent no further threat to English language rights and even if the party theoretically came to power, it's policy about the French language would probably target the francophone community where the last fight that the PQ can mount would be an effort to limit Francophones learning English. Just about the only idea left to the moribund PQ is perhaps extending Bill 101 to English cegeps, restricting francophone access, which honestly would just open up places for Anglophones who don't have the astronomical marks needed to gain entrance as today's heightened standards are directly related to the pressure of French enrolment.
But paradoxically, accepting the reality of our Anglo situation in Quebec, that is, that the present situation is as good as it gets, can be liberating.
We can choose to leave or choose to stay in Quebec under these conditions, but if we stay we'll be free to look at other issues when choosing between the CAQ or the Liberals.
So the following critique is sadly devoid of any discussion of the different party's position on Anglo rights because they are essentially the same.
It is hard to fault the Couillard Liberals over good government, but nonetheless, they are doomed to lose the next election.
The overriding job off the government is to manage the public purse as responsibly as possible and on this account the Liberals have done a pretty good job, in fact, better than any other provincial government, eliminating the deficit and making a dent in Quebec's massive debt.
I know it's an unpopular concept for voters who don't see the benefits of austerity, but nonetheless, those tangible benefits are real.
Balancing the budget and reducing debt has a twofold effect which we should all understand and consider.
First is that when government balances the budget, the interest on the debt over time becomes less onerous.
Let me explain by way of example.
Consider a family who twenty-five years ago bought a home for $250,000 with a $50,000 down and a mortgage of $200,000 with fixed monthly payment of say $1,3000 a month. Over the years, the mortgage payment is fixed, but the family income perhaps doubles, making the mortgage payment half as painful as when first assumed.
It is the same for government debt.
If we can just freeze the amount of debt, inflation will reduce the impact of carrying that debt over the years.
Now paying government debt is an added bonus, somewhat like making an extra payment on your mortgage which some banks allow, which has the effect of paying off the debt sooner.
In the case of governments paying off debt, one can assume that every billion dollars paid down, represents an annual interest saving of about $50 million dollars, money that can be redirected into government spending programs.
Over the last two budgets, Quebec has paid off $7 billion in debt, freeing up an additional $350 million in money that it saves on interest, money that can be spent otherwise. According to projections, the Quebec government will pay off another $14 billion in debt over the next four years, freeing up another $700 million in recovered money that would otherwise be spent on interest.
While it isn't sexy, it is what good government is about and on this account, full marks for the Liberals.
“S&P Global last week raised Quebec’s rating to AA-minus from A-plus, citing “strong budget surpluses and declining debt burden.” That put Quebec’s S&P rating above Ontario’s, which is Canada’s most populous province, for the first time since 2006.” LinkAusterity is controversial because it reduces government services across the board and so it biggest opponents are those who are penalized, those who pay little or no tax, but receive benefits. For them, the free ride on the back of real taxpayers is a gravy train that they don't want to see pulling out of the station. Although most of the pain of austerity has been borne by middle-class public employees who have seen their contracts rolled back, it is the vocal non-payers who bellyache the loudest.
All this good news must be tempered by the fact that other Canadians are subsidizing this new found fiscal responsibility.
Good as the Liberal effort is in paying down the debt and balancing the budget, the elephant in the room remains the equalization payment made to Quebec by Ottawa on behalf of Canadian taxpayers. Out of the annual $11 billion equalization gift from Ottawa, other Canadians taxpayers pay $8.7 billion of that amount (the other part is paid by Quebec taxpayers.) This gift from other Canadians represents about 10% of the Quebec budget, something nobody in Quebec is willing to admit.
Nobody except Francois Legault, leader of the CAQ who said this;
“What I want to tell Quebecers is that a CAQ government will aim for zero equalization. A CAQ government will eliminate the wealth gap with the rest of Canada. A CAQ government will have ambition, will aim high for Quebec.”Them's fighting words!
With the language war over, it is perhaps time to get down to sound, responsible government and working towards prosperity that will provide the government with the funds needed to help those who need help the most.
A new government, unburdened by responsibility for policies created in the past can look at each problem with fresh eyes, unencumbered by history... a veritable fresh start.
There are many things that could be changed, that should be changed.
- The antiquated and failed CEGEP system.
- A bureaucratic and overburdened health care system.
- A bloated and inefficient public service, which also goes for the school board system.
- A new approach to protection and expansion of French in Quebec without placing the burden of change on the Anglophone community.
- A new approach towards entrepreneurship and business.
- Abandoning 'grand' schemes and costly white elephant programs
- A realistic approach to costly 'green' energy projects that waste billions.
Given the conservative roots of the CAQ and the abandonment of nationalist policies, I'm ready to give them their shot.
And so Canada's two largest provinces, making up more than half of Canada's population are turning towards conservative governments and it remains to be seen what they will accomplish.
But one thing I know for sure is that if I were Justin, I'd be very anxious.