Opposition wary of debt repayment plan
Opposition critics say the Charest government's debt repayment plan is full of holes. The budget is lean on new spending. But it creates a fund to begin paying down Quebec's $118-billion debt.
The Generations Fund will take money from the profits Hydro Quebec earns from exporting power, and from river dam royalties. That cash will be invested, and the returns are to go against the debt.
Finance Minister Michel Audet says no government, present or future, will be able to divert the money toward other ambitions.
"There will be a law, a strict law, that prevents the government from using the money for any other use," Audet says.
Officials say the Generations Fund won't be big enough to make any significant dent in the debt for at least 10 years.
Parti Québécois finance critic François Legault says announcing a debt repayment plan draws attention away from Liberal shortcomings, such as no large income tax cuts as promised, and no new transfers from Ottawa. He calls the plan 'an illusion'.
"We have a budget for the next 12 months, which is the fourth year of this government, that is zero planning from the federal government," Legault says.
Legault says Premier Jean Charest can't offer anything flashier than long-term debt reduction because he has failed to wage a winning battle against the federal government for more money.