Financial experts say that balancing Quebec's budget will be "more difficult than expected," asking the Liberal government to consider a public sector wage-freeze, more service fees and higher public daycare fees.
The report was released today by tax consultant Luc Godbout and economists Claude Montmarquette. The Liberal government appointed the pair to review the province's books.
"The state of the budget is worrying, and we’ve felt that way for several years," said Godbout. "On one hand Quebec got through the recession relatively light, but on the other hand, the budget is in a bad state."
Both experts say they believe the balanced budget targeted by the Liberal government for 2015-2016 "will require going beyond annual expenditure reviews," and will require a revision of the provinces financial structure and expenditure programs.
"We need to convince the right people that we are serious about facing the structure deficit we have engineered for several years, and this is hard to do," said Montmarquette.
Godbout and Montmarquette confirmed that the budget deficit is $3.145 billion for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, $645 million more than than $2.5 billion deficit announced in the Parti-Québécois government's Feb. 20 budget report.
Montmarquette said the government knew about a shortfall in the province's pension plan, but were expecting to recover it by the end of the year.
"We don’t blame the last government. They were simply surprised by the slowdown of the economy," Montmarquette.
Godbout and Montmarquette made several recommendations for achieving a balanced budget in the coming years, including selling up to 10 per cent of SAQ and Hydro-Québec shares, and increasing service fees.
"Whatever the government does, there will be someone criticizing the government," said Montmarquette.