Quebec’s new government rode to their landslide victory on the promise of fiscal accountability, pledging balanced budgets and an end to wasteful spending. It’ll just cost a few million dollars.
In a province where the Charbonneau Commission (officially the Commission of Inquiry on the Awarding and Management of Public Contracts in the Construction Industry), uncovered near-universal corruption among just about every governmental figure, promises of accountability were welcomed. When the newly-elected premier, Phillippe Couillard, spoke of a special budget-cutting committee, we were skeptical, but optimistic. Oh how wrong we were.
In documents obtained by the Canadian Press, this special committee will cost “at least $3.8 million in its first year,” being sure to squeeze every last drop out of the taxpayer in the pursuit of, er, fiscal accountability. What will the money be spent on? Well, exorbitant salaries for one! The commission’s president Lucienne Robillard, obviously an ex-Liberal cabinet minister, will be pulling in $265,000 this year ($1,100 per day, don’t worry about it), and the panel’s four “experts” will each receive $192,500.
Their mandate will, laughably, include reviewing the effectiveness of various government programs, and picking which ones to improve or eliminate and hopes to cut $3.2 billion by next year. It’s a noble goal, and one that should be accomplished. What seems incredible to me is that we never had anyone in charge of the budgetary or accounting matters of the government. It just seems incredible that we don’t have anyone responsible for the, er, financial matters of the government.
What do you know, we actually have someone like that. The Finance Minister, Carlos Leitão, whose job is literally to do all that accounting and budgeting in order to realize savings. So why isn’t he working on it? In overpaying for the commission, he proved why it’s necessary, maybe the Liberals are just bad at not spending money. Alternatively, it may be something more insidious at play. Quebecers love government spending. It’s in our lefty blood. If Leitão unilaterally announced $3.2 billion in cuts, there would be riots. Especially if someone tries to raise tuition.
So, he appoints a commission, they recommend the cuts, and then their hands our tied. Some Commission said we need to make the cuts, so please, please don’t riot. It’s a smart strategy, but without the bold appetite for reform the Liberals were talking about. While less politically savvy, had Leitão and Couillard gotten some interns to do the same work over the past three months, the result would probably be the same.
That’s a good idea actually. Hey Carlos, if you’re reading this, I’d like to propose the Stockton Commission. I’ve already identified how to trim $3.6 million from Quebec’s budget, and I’ll only charge you $200,000 to tell you how.