Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Quebec Finance Minister Breaks Tradition

As most of those who live in Quebec already know, yesterday was Finance Minister Raymond Bachand's first budget since being assigned to what must be, the most unenviable job in the Quebec government.
The budget itself delivered what was to be expected, increased tuition fees, gas taxes, sales tax and a new poll tax on individuals to help pay for health care. The tax increases were sugar-coated with the promise that the government will cut it's own expenses substantially, but while the tax increases are real, there's little in the historical record of any Quebec government that would indicate that they'll have any success in fulfilling the promise of smaller government.

Interestingly, the Finance Minister broke two traditions that are part of Canadian political lore, the first of which is the wearing of a new pair of shoes to present the budget. Mr. Bachand opted to have an old pair of shoes repaired by a shoemaker, to underline the importance of austerity.
I didn't even know that there's a shoemaker left in Quebec City and I wonder which cabinet minister keeps shoes to the point that they need to be repaired by a cobbler, but no matter, the photo-op was well played.

The second tradition concerning the presentation of the budget, is that secrecy is of utmost importance, as advance knowledge of its contents can be of use, sometimes, in regards to financial markets. The contents of the budget are jealously hidden from outsiders and should the budget leak in any substantial form, the Finance Minister is expected to resign.

Perhaps the most interesting story concerning a budget leak was the case of Federal Liberal Finance Minister Marc Lalonde, who back in 1982 inadvertently allowed a reporter to photograph salient portions of his budget. Instead of facing the music and resigning, he pulled an underhanded move, which I still regard as the most egregious example ever, of disrespect of taxpayer money.
 According to Andrew Coyne in his BLOG;
"To forestall accusations that his deficit forecast of $32.4-billion (or whatever it was) had been leaked (after Lalonde, in a pre-budget photo-op, carelessly let the cameras get too near the document), the minister hastily tacked on $200 million in spending, boosting the deficit to $32.6-billion and allowing him to claim that the correct number had not, in fact, been leaked.
Yesterday, before the Quebec budget was presented, it was leaked, lock, stock and barrel to a Quebec City "Shock Jock," Jeff Fillion, whose acerbic and insulting radio shtick is a genre popularly known in Quebec as Radio "Poubelle" (Garbage.)

Yup, the morning of budget, the JOURNAL DE MONTREAL printed a story which described Mr Fillion's assertion that he had received a complete copy of the budget from an anonymous source.
The paper published Mr. Fillion's version of what was to come and surprisingly, he was dead on, accurately revealing many of the budget's tax increases.

The leak represents the biggest incident of its kind in Canadian history, but so far it seems to be causing not the slightest ripple. The press is preoccupied with the content of the budget, which is provoking slews of wonderful quotes from separatists and labour leaders who complain that tax increases should only be applied to rich people and corporations.

The police have been called in to investigate, so the government has admitted the leak was real.

Surprisingly, Mr. Bachand bucked convention and did not offer to resign as he should have. Even more amazing, is that nobody has called on Mr. Bachand's to do so!

I guess everyone is still numbed that the 38% that the Quebec government takes out of the economy is set to approach 40%, a new North American record!!

And who says Quebec can't be Number 1!


  1. Could the lack of a reaction be due to the rise of the internet? It has created so much new information to the masses that was before denied them. There was no internet to speak of in 1982.

  2. Je vous invite vous et vos lecteurs à venir nous faire part de vos économies hors-Québec. Puisque vous êtes des gens grandement facilités n'ayant pas cette foutue barrière de la langue que plusieurs de mes congénères québecois ont: