Last week, on March 27th, 2018, the Québec Liberal Party published their 2018-2019 budget. To highlight this important part of Québec’s financial situation, I decided to write a “campus throwback” to Québec’s Minister of Finance Carlos J. Leitão’s visit to John Abbott College. If my macroeconomics and microeconomics teacher is reading this, your efforts did not go in vain!
On February 23rd, 2018, Leitão held a talk at the Agora as part of his series of consultations, where he had previously visited other educational institutions such as the Université de Québec (UQAM) and Concordia University. Leitão claimed that the purpose of these visits are to listen to the students’ consultations in the context of the budget plan that was released last week.
To give a little background about Leitão, he is a Portuguese immigrant who studied economics at McGill University. He was the chief economist at Laurentian Bank of Canada and he has previously held various public positions.
Carlos J. Leitão introduced himself as a “deputy to represent the population [before] being Minister of Finance”. He talked about his three kids who all attended JAC and he expressed his “moment of proud daddy” while taking about his daughter, whom he described as a “talented soccer player”.
Rather than giving a speech, Leitão was answering questions during the visit in the Agora. The number of students attending was quite disappointing, as one would think that the visit of such a crucial person to Québec’s economy would interest and intrigue a lot of students and young adults.
One main question was repeated regarding the government’s cut in public spending in areas such as colleges, universities, daycares, and health and social services. One student gave the exact number, which was about $109M. Each time this question was repeated, Leitão tried to make it clear that his government “did not cut public spending. [It] slowed down public growth”. He brought up the fact that Québec has a large level of debt that was accumulated over the past 30 years, because governments allowed themselves to spend more. Later on, the surpluses from the cuts would be divided into two main areas: one half to reduce taxation, and the other half to put back into program spending.
Other questions regarded the revenue of Loto-Québec. To that, Mr. Leitão explained that it makes about $1B in revenue, which goes to a general revenue fund. In fact, 40% of the revenue is mostly spent on health, 20% on education, 10% to pay interest on Québec’s debt, and 30% on various other services that he did not specify. He also made that point that “if we spent mostly on education, what would happen to the other parts?” He definitely understood the audience’s preoccupation on the education budget.
One of the last concepts introduced was that of the aging population. It is obvious that governments seek immigration in order to balance out the aging of its own population and Leitão made it clear that the Liberal Party views immigration favourably. However, immigration opens up discussions on fears regarding the newcomers and their background, which is usually the subject of debates at the national assembly.
He ended his talk with a question about the government’s longer-term goals, beyond 2025. However, the provincial government does not gear its goals toward long-term planning, instead looking towards medium term plans.
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Originally Published in Bandersnatch Vol. 47 Issue 12 on April 11, 2018