Phillippe Couillard got on the TV today to do his inaugural
speech from the throne address to the peasants. He spoke about the time honoured tropes of Quebec politics, notably jobs, fiscal affairs, expanding healthcare, improving relations with every differentiated group, and something about improving the fortunes of all Quebecers.
Notably, he joined every Canadian politician ever in pledging to balance the budget by 2015-2016, a lofty and ambitious goal that will likely not be reached but hey, he tried.
However, the focal point of his plan, and the moment other outlets will miss, is when he pulled a Tim Hudak and announced his 250,000 jobs plan, to be realized in the next five years. It sounds reasonable next to the 1,000,000 figure, but considering Quebec lost 43,900 jobs in 2013, and 26,000 just this past April, 250,000 is a daunting goal.
His master plan is to increase the purview of the Minister of the Economy, by adding an innovation component, and attempting to lure investors. He also mumbled something about a new union policy, which could mean anything from taking us down the road to communism to oiling factory machines with the blood of workers. He was vague about what he meant.
As well, he pledges to work together with the feds and municipalities, giving Montreal and Quebec City a special status, appointing an Inspector General to Montreal, reducing bureaucracy and red tape by 10%(cue applause), relaunching Plan Nord, and seizing upon the Canada-Europe Free Trade Agreement to turn Montreal into the Transatlantic centre of the ocean.
One salient note was the goal to modernize technical professions and education, taking after the German model, while increasing tuition for international students (though pledging to keep it affordable for Quebec students to avoid riots and destroying the downtown centre once more). Despite the irony of the most indebted province in Canada trying to emulate the EU country that supports everyone else, at least the sentiment is noble.
Lastly, he’ll reform all government programs to allocate funding based on merit and productivity (possibly including the advent of means-testing, though this was a speech from the throne, not the budget which is coming June 3rd). Breaking down the figures, that could mean cutting 60,000 public sector jobs, making this entire plan like a watered down version of Hudak’s except proposed after Couillard has already been elected.
On the non-economic side, Couillard wants 50 new superclinics open 7 days a week (because appending the term ‘super-‘ before a name for a healthcare institution is so massively popular as of late). Also something about reducing the carbon footprint, and “evaluating” our use of oil (read: not doing anything but pretending to be principled while not doing it).
The budget comes out June 3rd, and it’ll be an adventure seeing how the hell Couillard plans on balancing the budget in two years, and whatever else he’ll try cramming into it.