François Legault recalled on Tuesday his warnings about Justin Trudeau in the last federal elections in view of the failure of the negotiations to solve the “financial imbalance” in the health sector.
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“Recall the last federal election where I said that Mr. Trudeau is not open to increasing health transfers or giving more powers on immigration. Nevertheless, he got about thirty deputies [au Québec] ‘ commented the Prime Minister CAQ.
The day before, the Council of the Federation announced it had accepted Ottawa’s offer to increase health transfers by just $46.2 billion over 10 years. For Quebec, that means an annual increase of just $1 billion, or six times less than claimed.
“It’s not fully resolved yet,” said François Legault, recalling that he would be short of $5 billion annually to adequately fund health needs.
He calls on the population to put pressure on the federal government, even if it remains unclear in what form this support from the population could take place.
Without getting involved, François Legault did not rule out the convening of a commission like that of Yves Séguin in the early 2000s on budgetary imbalances, or the possibility of a sectoral referendum on the issue.
“We need to see what means we can use to ensure we have popular support. But before thinking about a sectoral referendum, first the Quebecers and then the Canadians have to be convinced that there is a structural problem,” he explained.
Mr Legault also mentioned the upcoming federal election again, but Canada’s Conservative Party does not seem more inclined to further increase health transfers.
Despite the impasse, the CAQ premier promises to continue the effort. “We will have to explain again that this is not sustainable in the long term,” he said.
“We obviously see that there is a fiscal imbalance,” he argues.
Not surprisingly, opposition parties were in unison in denouncing Quebec’s meager harvest from Ottawa. Liberals and PQ have called it a “discount deal”.
The interim chairman of the PLQ spoke of an attitude of “great resignation” on the part of Mr. Legault. “I think that Mr. François Legault, the Prime Minister, has not behaved with the combativeness that we could have expected,” explained Marc Tanguay.
However, he struggled to explain how a Liberal government could have done better. “The balance of power is in the political pressure that we can make, the political pressure to say, ‘It’s not going down the ramp,'” he offered.
Québec solidaire co-spokeswoman Manon Massé spoke of a “failure” for her part. “A failure that digs a $5 billion hole in Quebec’s budget. Mr. Legault puffed out his chest. He comes back and looks down,” she said at a news conference.
The deficit is now stoking fears in the opposition. “I ask him one thing, and that is that he makes a firm commitment not to cut public services to fill this hole,” Ms. Massé said.
Last week, the prime minister said the shortfall would complicate budget balancing and “affect our deficit in Quebec.”