Public sector agreement 'good for taxpayers,' Philippe Couillard says
Tentative deal includes salary increases and 1-year retirement age hike
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says the tentative deal with public sector unions is a "good deal for the taxpayers — for the patients in the hospitals, for the kids in the schools and their parents — and also for our public sector employees."
The agreement-in-principle reached Thursday with the common front of public sector unions includes a one-year increase in retirement age and salary increases of eight to nine per cent over a five-year period.
"Nobody would call these raises outrageous," Couillard said Friday in a year-end interview on CBC Montreal's Daybreak.
"The upshot here is that both parties have given way on a significant number of questions."
Couillard also weighed in on a number of other government reforms and challenges facing the province.
On Montreal's economic struggles, Couillard said, "We're going to continue managing public finances well and decreasing taxes."
A lot of the responsibility falls on the city's shoulders, and Couillard argued Montreal needs to cut out red tape and lower municipal taxes.
He said the province is negotiating with Montreal to recognize special status as a metropolis.
Taxes and fees
Changes such as the increases to daycare fees, which are on a sliding scale based on income, have been made with the aim of protecting the province's low-income earners, Couillard said.
He maintained that "we still have by far the most generous daycare system in the country and probably North America."
Couillard wouldn't commit to any income tax cuts, but said his government "pledged that we would abolish the health tax, and it will be done."
He said the rising cost of living in the province, seen most prominently in the skyrocketing price of some food items, is largely outside the government's control.
Couillard said recent changes to the structure of school boards are meant to "streamline governance."
"Parents and teachers need to have a say in the way funding is distributed," he said.
Couillard also said the cuts to the education budget were difficult but necessary and added that the government may look at increasing funding for special education.