CAQ unveils investments in education and health, promises not to increase taxes

As he announced his party's financial plan, Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault promised he won't increase tariffs or taxes beyond the rate of inflation, if elected Oct. 1.

Leader François Legault says Coalition Avenir Québec won't increase tariffs or taxes beyond inflation

CAQ Leader François Legault said his party's financial plan would put $1.7 billion into the wallets of Quebecers annually. (Radio-Canada)

François Legault has unveiled his party's financial plan, which the Coalition Avenir Québec leader says will help fund better services in health and education — and posits the party as the best choice to manage the provincial purse.

The CAQ, which is leading in the polls, said its plan would put $1.7 billion back into the wallets of Quebecers annually, primarily through allocations to families and a reduction in school taxes.

The financial framework is "responsible" and will cut down on bureaucracy and wasteful spending, Legault said during a press conference at Château Bonne Entente in Quebec City Saturday morning.

It will allow the party "to better manage public finances to both improve services and put money back into Quebecers' wallets," he said.

Legault said the CAQ is predicting 4.1 per cent growth in the health sector budget over the first three years of a mandate, and 4.2 per cent growth in the fourth year.

It also plans to add $400 million to the education budget every year, and more than $500 million to caring for elderly Quebecers annually.

"I think the CAQ, by far, has the most solid team to execute this plan," Legault said.

No tax increase beyond inflation

The CAQ says it would pay off $10 billion of the provincial debt before the end of March 2019, if elected on Oct. 1.

It also plans to reduce school taxes by $700 million annually, with the aim of equalizing how much residents in different parts of the province pay, Legault told reporters.

Another $763 million would go to Quebec families, $249 million for pre-kindergarten to four-year-olds, $245 million for seniors' homes and $200 million for home support services.

The CAQ leader, who previously said he wants to be the "premier for the economy," said the party would also eliminate a "family tax" imposed by the Liberals.

Legault also promised he wouldn't increase tariffs or taxes beyond the rate of inflation.

While a report released before the election campaign predicted 1.3 per cent economic growth in 2021 and 2022 in Quebec, the CAQ said its plan would get the rate up to as much as 2 per cent.

In the last two years of a potential mandate, Legault said a CAQ government would "increase economic growth by 0.5 per cent," which would bring in $700 million.

Speaking in Montreal today, Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée said the CAQ's forecast for economic growth amounts to 'wishful thinking.' (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

First out of the gate

Before the announcement, Legault had said he would wait for the Liberals' financial framework before announcing his own.

However, earlier this week, he said he wanted people to see it before the first leaders' debate on Sept. 13.

The Liberals, the Parti Québécois and Québec Solidaire have yet to unveil their own financial frameworks.

PQ Leader Jean-François Lisée said the CAQ's forecast for economic growth amounts to "wishful thinking."

He said the PQ's framework would respect economic projections for the province.

"In this case, the CAQ is really counting its chickens before they hatch," Lisée said in French.

Liberals also pan the proposal

In the election campaign so far, Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard has emphasized his party's economic track record.

Quebec's economy has experienced a boom, growing last year at a rate unseen since 2000.

Commenting on the CAQ's proposal Saturday, Couillard said Legault's party has under-evaluated how much it would need to spend to make its plans a reality.

"Very few or nearly no details on infrastructure, that doesn't work. But I'm not surprised," Couillard told reporters.

Liberal candidate and incumbent finance minister, Carlos Leitão, also questioned the credibility of the CAQ's plan today.

"I think the CAQ should have taken more time," he said.

Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard, pictured with his Finance Minister Carlos Leitão in March, has touted his party's economic record so far this election campaign. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Leitão said the CAQ's economic framework fails to explain how it will pay for several campaign promises it has made so far, such as free public kindergarten for four-year-olds and a plan to subject new immigrants to a French-language test.

"Which promises will be kept? Which promises will be abandoned? [These] are important questions and I think the population has a right to get a clear answer from the CAQ," Leitão said.

The Liberals' 2018 budget increased spending by 4.7 per cent, one of the highest increases in the past 20 years.

The budget included five per cent additional funding for education in the coming year, while health spending would see 4.6 per cent growth.

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With files from Radio-Canada and La Presse Canadienne