Quebec Liberal Party leadership candidate Raymond Bachand spoke to CBC Montreal's Daybreak ahead of the English-language debate this Saturday, to be livestreamed on the CBC Montreal website.
Question: Your signature issue is finance. The economy here is barely growing, what do you think is going wrong right now?
Bachand: Well the economy of Quebec is basically in sync with the economy of Canada and the United States.
Q: But it’s not. It’s not growing anything like the Canadian economy.
Bachand: But we’ve suffered less and we’ve rebounded much more strongly in the past years than the Canadian economy.
Q: So you are satisfied that we have a healthy economy?
Bachand: No, I’m not satisfied.
Jobs are key and the job market is still going well. The investments were going well in Quebec. You know... we’ve had a record year of investments in manufacturing, in 2011 and 2012, in mining, the first time in history ahead of Ontario and this has stalled since September.
Q: You’ve been advocating tax reductions, is that right?
Bachand: That’s right. I think our personal income taxes have reached a limit, your real estate taxes are at the limit and I’d reduce the tax of the people working that are 65 years and older. I think we could go to 62 years and older. That’s 200,000 Quebecers that can work a day a week and I’d cut $1,500 from their taxes.
Q: We have a bad debt problem, you would agree with that, wouldn’t you? We’re in the worst situation in all of Canada?
Bachand: It’s the highest debt but it’s manageable.
Why am I in politics? Because you need health services, you need education so your kids get trained, you need to take care of your elderly, you need to promote culture. To do that, you need money. If you don’t have money, it’s an illusion. Look at Spain and Greece.
Q: How, after nine years in power, have you left us in a position where we have the worst debt in Canada and the highest taxes in Canada?
Bachand: Two things: there was a recession except we lost 60,000 jobs and rebounded very quickly…
And you have to invest in infrastructure. There’s been 20 years of neglect in Quebec’s infrastructure. People died with the bridges collapsing. [We had] to repair [the Turcot interchange] and you have to change subway cars, so you do have to invest in infrastructure and, yes, it’s like repairing the roof to your house, that adds to your debt.
Q: Why do you think you lost the election?
Bachand: We lost the election because people were fed up with Mr. Charest, let’s be frank.
It’s like a divorce. ‘I don’t like you anymore.’ You could have been happy for ten years, you could have had family, kids, but you know ‘I don’t like you anymore.’ ...There is an emotional aspect which was there. It doesn’t take anything away from Mr. Charest who was there for 13 years, did great things for Quebec.
And secondly, the integrity debate hurts us quite a bit also.
Q: So if Mr. Charest had stepped aside and you or Philippe Couillard or Pierre Moreau, one of your fellow contenders, had been the leader, do you think you would have won the election?
Bachand: I think it would have been a different question. But then, you know, in a democracy, [change] is not a sin except when you end up with a government so bad as it is now. But what we have to do, as the Liberal Party, you’ve got to regain the trust of the citizens.
The [anglophone] community is worried about the Liberal Party and whether it’s the reality or perception is a moot point because perception is key. We’ve got to reconnect and make sure that the community is listening to us and is persuaded that we do take care of your hospitals, your schools boards and the West Island train, for example.
And the francophone in community in Quebec... if you want to kick out the PQ, you've got to get a leader of the Liberal Party that’s going to reconnect with the francophones in the regions in Quebec, which is my case.