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19th of October 2018

Canada



Quebec election: PQ unveils proposed budget, targets doctors' pay

The Parti Québécois is banking on $3.45 billion in frozen doctors' wages to pay for the bulk of its campaign promises.

“Doctors have hit the jackpot of jackpots,” says PQ Leader Jean-François Lisée, right, with candidate Nicolas Marceau at a news conference in Montreal Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. “They do great work, we’re not taking a cent away from them, but (the jackpot) is over.”

“Doctors have hit the jackpot of jackpots,” says PQ Leader Jean-François Lisée, right, with candidate Nicolas Marceau at a news conference in Montreal Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. “They do great work, we’re not taking a cent away from them, but (the jackpot) is over.” Peter McCabe / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Parti Québécois is banking on $3.45 billion in frozen doctors’ wages to pay for the bulk of its campaign promises.

In a four-year financial plan unveiled Thursday, the PQ pledges $4.85 billion in extra spending on home care, subsidized daycares and additional infrastructure projects.

But while the proposed budget is largely based on projections from Quebec’s auditor general, it’s also predicated on cancelling a deal between the Liberal government and 20,000 doctors.

“Doctors have hit the jackpot of jackpots,” PQ Leader Jean-François Lisée said. “They do great work, we’re not taking a cent away from them, but (the jackpot) is over.”

Last winter, the Liberal government signed a contract with the province’s doctors to keep their salaries on par with other jurisdictions in Canada. The PQ’s plan to turf the deal would almost certainly trigger a costly legal battle, but Lisée is confident his government would prevail.

“Will they unleash their lawyers? Yes. Will we unleash ours? Of course,” said Lisée. “Plan A is to negotiate … to allow them to make a great act of solidarity with Quebecers by injecting more money into health care. If that doesn’t work, we have a Plan B and a Plan C.”

Would he be willing to draft special legislation to force the doctors to accept his deal?

“We will use every legislative tool at our disposal.”

Éric Tremblay, the PQ’s candidate in Repentigny, was one of 1,000 doctors to sign a petition against the pay raises.

“We’re appealing to (doctors’) sense of humanity,” he said. “There’s this notion that (cancelling the raise) will bring disorder into the system. Well, ask the people who have an autistic child who waits for years to be treated. I don’t think they believe there’s much order in the system.

“Ask the workers who are burning out at record rates. … I don’t think that’s an indication of a system that’s in order.”

Another apparent cost-savings measure in the PQ’s plan would be to curtail the problem of doctors “over-diagnosing” patients. They estimate this would save $650 million over four years, but that’s largely a speculative measure.

Lisée said studies suggest that amount represents only about 10 per cent of the cost of over-diagnosing.

Meanwhile, the PQ attacked the Liberals and Coalition Avenir Québec for using “magic” math to make their own budget proposals work. Both parties depart slightly from economic forecasts outlined in the auditor general’s report.

In fact, Lisée claims, just to maintain current services under the Liberals’ tax plan, the government will have to increase spending by $868 million next year. That means they’d either have to spend their surplus, incur a deficit or cut services.

The last time the PQ formed a government, in 2012, Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau had to walk back a promise to cancel a health tax. Lisée said that was necessary to ensure services weren’t cut.

“We don’t want a budget that will hurt people,” he said.

The PQ budget also includes:

$1 billion in home care spending, including $510 million to hire more nurses. An extra $835 million in public transit spending (mostly on buses). $1.4 billion in subsidized daycares. An extra $200 million in infrastructure spending on elder care centres. Related Former Mount Real Corp. CEO Lino Matteo ordered to report to... Québec solidaire vows to establish a guaranteed minimum income Read More




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