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Friday, 23 May 2014

Austerity Doesn't Work, Even Though Quebec Liberals Give It a New Name

Quebec's Premier Philippe Couillard has introduced a new era of "fiscal rigor," the new code word for austerity.  His inaugaral address when the legislative session opened this week was full of threats about what will happen if expenses aren't cut and the deficit reduced.

His new finance minister Carlos Leitão was right behind him cheering: if debt and deficit are not brought under control, Quebec is headed for Portugal-like problems, he said three weeks ago. 

No matter that the International Monetary Fund is now admitting that austerity hasn't worked, has brought poverty and dispair to millions of Europeans, and should be rethought.  Here's a link to Paul Krugman's analysis of the situation:  it dates from a two years ago, but still is extremely relevant. The big Quebec thinktank, the Institute de recherche et de informations soci-économique   says much the same in a recent report.

But it's unlikely that anyone is going to pay attention.  Even the official opposition Parti Québécois is on the austerity wagon.  Interim opposition leader Stéphane Bedard called on Couillard to renounce the idea of allocating $15 billion to infrastructure programs over the next ten years.

Come on, corruption in infrastructure and other construction has been rampant--as the Charbonneau Commission is showing us--but spending on repairs and upgrading roads, sewers, water treatment and the like is necessary to maintain a healthy society.  What's more it provides jobs for lots and lots of people which is good for the economy.  Canada escaped some of the worst of the Great Recession because the NDP, BQ and federal Liberals made Stephen Harper spend a little money to keep things going.

But the only people who are likely to bring that up during budget discussions in Quebec now are the three members of Québec Solidaire---and thank goodness for them!

1 comment:

lagatta à montréal said...

Sue Montgomery had a good story in the (usually deplorable) Gazette this weekend about "hidden homelessness" in Montreal suburbs. She mentioned the threat to programs to end homelessness and help homeless people get back on track due to the Couillard government's austerity agenda:

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/invisible+homeless+Montreal+suburbs+VIDEO/9872347/story.html

Moreover, the planned overhaul of the St-Denis viaduct between Bernard and Bellechasse was put on hold last year due to a halt on much infrastructure spending due to the endemic corruption. And yet that viaduct is sorely needed - it isn't even safe for drivers, to say nothing of pedestrians or cyclists - and might have even saved someone's life.