2023 is a risky year for the Legault government

(Quebec) Next year could be fateful for the Legault government.

As the Prime Minister refused to hold a traditional press conference at the end of the National Assembly session in December, it was not possible to hear his results and forecast for the coming year.

But hard choices loom, and after four years in power and now at risk of recession, pressure on his government could mount.

Will its popularity rating remain like Teflon to which nothing sticks, or will its power erode?

As the Prime Minister said in his opening speech in November: “Throughout my career I have always insisted on results. If there’s one word I want to emphasize today, it’s “results.” […] We must all work together to put ourselves in solution mode and achieve concrete results. »

Mark Tanguay, interim leader of the official opposition, wasted no time repeating the CAQ’s election slogan “let’s keep going” and added ironically: “Let’s keep getting results. »

Because the pretext or pretext for fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer valid.

Health Minister Christian Dube, who has shaped and championed health care reform across all platforms, must quickly address the perennial crisis he is in.

A government, even at its peak, cannot enjoy the patience and grace of the electorate forever.

Since the late 1990s, successive governments have promised Quebecers improvements.

The health and social services mission will take almost $56 billion from Quebec’s overall $135-billion budget in 2022-2023, and it is not certain that the Legault government will reap the additional billions it has requested from the federal government. finance this sector.

But emergencies are still filling up, staff are at the end of their ropes, and the needs are obvious. To be sure of this, it is enough to observe the disastrous situation in hospitals in the last few months.

“It’s not perfect yet, but at least we’re able to provide a minimum service,” Mr. Dube said in a television interview in early December.

He wants to build a one-stop shop for the millions of Quebecers who still don’t have access to a family doctor, even with CAQ’s commitment.

Also, the minister wants to put an end to compulsory overtime (TSO) for nurses and condemns it.

Quebec also wants to expand the powers of specialized nurse practitioners, pharmacists and paramedic emergency technicians.

However, negotiations in the public sector could undermine Christian Dubey’s ambitions as the usual gap between the government’s proposals and the union’s demands yawns.

A confidant of François Legault, Christian Dubé has created a model manager image over the years with his laid-back tone, but this will be tested.

After nearly three years at the helm of the ministry, the moment of truth will come in 2023: will he be able to get the liner out of the health care network where so many others have failed? Or how will Napoleon cross the Niemen without returning safely?

Recession and inflation

Other pitfalls are looming on the economic front and the CAQ government will have to carefully maneuver through these straits to avoid failure.

“The economic outlook has worsened,” Finance Minister Eric Girard said during the last economic update in December.

“We’re going through a period of great uncertainty,” with a 50% chance of a recession this year, he continued.

Even if inflation moderates, the loss of household purchasing power and the resulting discontent can damage the government’s image.

He will also have to negotiate a delicate transition with the start of consultations on Bill 2 on January 31 to cap electricity price increases at 3%.

Companies object because they would not be protected by the cap, and in their case, the bill would increase 6.4% on 1.er April 2023 and 4.2% for large companies.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has already stepped up and will attend the hearing.

Option consommateurs is already predicting that companies will pass these increases on to their customers.

Remember that the government had to fix this solution: in its haste to abolish the Regie de l’énergie’s control over tariffs, it always argued that the increase based on the consumer price index would be less than that set by the Regie. … until inflation explodes at the end of the pandemic.

The government also provides childcare services, university tuition fees, registration fees, private or semi-private rooms in hospitals, charging stations for electric cars, etc.

In addition, it also undermines the commitment to reduce taxes by 1% for the first two tax brackets in 2023.

Debt and Generation Fund

Eric Girard also suggested he wants to pursue a new project that has been mentioned sporadically in recent years: debt reduction and revisions to the Generations Fund Act.

Because the government reached its targets earlier than expected, partly due to inflation. The statutory target was a total debt equivalent to 45% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, we need to reach 40.4%.

Moreover, the Treasury was able to take advantage of inflation by generating 14 billion in additional tax revenue in the fiscal framework, Eric Girard noted.

But the “spirit of the law” has not yet been achieved, the minister pleaded, as if it is necessary to keep the pressure on the public finances and limit the growth of expenses and debts.

The “spirit” in 2006 was the desire to target the average net debt ratio of Canadian provinces, rather than total debt – meaning the net debt/GDP ratio is 31%, while Quebec is still at 38%.

If Quebec reduces the gap by 0.5% a year, as Mr. Girard suggests, we are still a long way off.

In addition, the Legault government telegraphed that it was considering reducing its payments to the Generations Fund. Fed by royalties, dividends, mining revenues, contributions from Hydro-Québec and interest, this tool is used specifically for debt reduction. This can delay the payment of the debt.

The “targeted revenue” paid into the fund each year will reach $5.2 billion in 2027, but the minister has hinted that payments into the fund could be capped at $3 billion – convenient because the other $2 billion will be available to the government, even if it is to meet the debt reduction target. it prevents

Therefore, consultations should be held in all likelihood to agree new debt reduction targets and discuss the Generations Fund.

What is the “responsible management of public finances” that the CAQ government often claims in a context that calls for massive reinvestment in public services? Let the answer come.

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