Quebec opposition slams budgetary surplus after cuts to social programs
Premier Philippe Couillard defends belt-tightening measures, says Quebecers made the effort together
Aiming for a balanced budget in the last fiscal year, the provincial government has instead wound up with a $1.8 billion surplus, which will be invested in a fund to pay off Quebec's gross debt.
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Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard praised his government's belt-tightening program. It is the first surplus for the province after six years of running deficits. But opposition parties said the extra cash indicates there was no need to cut so deep into social program spending.
In a financial report made public last Thursday, the government confirmed the nearly $2 billion surplus it announced in March for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.
Opposition decries cuts to social services
"When you cut so much and raise peoples' financial burdens, as much as $1,500 per family, it's not complicated to balance public finances. It's easy," said Parti Québécois finance critic Nicolas Marceau.
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Québec Solidaire also criticized the government. Mercier MNA Amir Khadir claimed his party was right to raise the alarm about cuts to spending.
"It's those who live in our regions, our professors and education professionals, our nurses, our senior citizens and our children who paid the price for this liberal lie destined to help privatize public services in Quebec," Khadir said in a statement.
Couillard, however, defended his cabinet's decisions.
"It's important to tell Quebecers why we made this effort together," he said.
"We were in the grip of debt and deficit in the last few years, unfortunately," he said. "And we've managed to free ourselves of those constraints."
Couillard said the government still has to remain vigilant when it comes to spending, but now has more room in how to fund health and education.
With files from Radio-Canada