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15 February 2018

RESPONSE: A solid financial framework

In response to Claude Castonguay’s opinion piece, published yesterday.

Open letter published February 10, 2018 in La Presse+.

It is rare for me to take to the media to respond to an open letter. Today, however, I have found it impossible not to respond, particularly since the letter comes from someone as worthy as Claude Castonguay, whose contribution to Quebec is recognized by all.

First, I do not understand the reference to a series of costly promises. Are we talking about the increased investments in health (+4.2%) and education (+5.4%), or about our third plan to raise more than 100,000 people out of poverty, or about the tax relief for families, particularly those in the middle class?

All of these measures are, indeed, electoral promises, but they are promises we made in 2014 and which we have been fulfilling since then. 

These are not empty promises, but concrete measures for meeting our commitments. 

All these measures have been announced after rigorous and well-planned budgeting. They are also, and above all, properly and sustainably funded within our budgetary framework, as they have always been, unlike those of the opposition parties, which are multiplying dangerously.  

Contrary to the allegations, the funds for these measures are absolutely not taken from the Generations Fund, nor will they cause further debt. With respect, Mr. Castonguay, I would have expected a more rigorous examination of this point. A simple reading of our budget would confirm it. I am a great defender of the Generations Fund, in the interest of fairness to future generations. These measures are funded responsibly, thanks to the economic growth and renewed confidence we have seen; in other words, with revenue that we have, not with our children’s money.

The party of the future

I will leave Quebecers to judge the rest of your political analysis and decide who will be the party of the 21st century, which is an essential question. But, particularly during an election year, it is imperative that Quebecers are able to exercise their judgment based on fair and objective information. As elected officials, it is our duty and responsibility to remain ethical and to provide honesty and transparency to the population, which will soon have to make important choices about its future. 

The fact that I have to re-establish such simple but important facts with increasing frequency concerns me.

The proliferating allegations and demagogy are worrying, and I sincerely hope this will not set the tone of the coming campaign, as we have unfortunately seen in other jurisdictions. This does not serve democracy. Quebec and Quebecers deserve better than that.

– Carlos J. Leitão, Minister of Finance