Editorial: Parti Québécois victory paves way for federalist renewal

In spite of federalist fears, the Parti Québécois’s return to power, in a minority position, is actually a welcome result for a number of reasons.

It saddles Pauline Marois with immediate and difficult challenges that will require compromise and toning down of the PQ’s more radical election proposals.

It also gives the opposition Liberals a chance to select a leader and develop approaches to these challenges—the budget, the economy, and necessary and overdue downsizing and rationalizing to cope with the province’s crippling public debt, amounting to 54 per cent of Quebec’s gross domestic product.

While many will applaud Marois for immediately cancelling the $200 surtax for health care—a regressive tax that has a greater effect on the lower end of the income scale—the questions remain: Who will replace the missing $1 billion? Who will pay for the cancellation of the university tuition hikes?

The PQ’s initial call for boosting taxes retroactively on those earning more than $130,000 after deductions, to 28 per cent from 24 per cent, and to 31 per cent for those earning more than $250,000, plus other hikes, is counter-productive. It will be one more reason for the managerial and entrepreneurial classes to leave Quebec or find loopholes to avoid another boost in the highest taxed jurisdiction in North America. And while it may not be illegal to impose a retroactive tax, it is definitely unethical, creating new rules for actions and decisions undertaken under the old ones. This is bad for Quebec’s credibility and status in the bond market, especially under a government that wants to break up the country.

It would be far preferable to start trimming down Quebec’s heavy bureaucracy. The imposition of a new tax retroactively is something entirely new, never discussed in the election campaign, and has all the signs of inexperience and managerial weakness.

Yes, the PQ got off to a shaky start. Meanwhile, the Liberals are prepping for what should be a reinvigorating leadership campaign, with former health minister Philippe Couillard, former finance minister Raymond Bachand, and former transport minister Pierre Moreau early contenders with valuable experience, credibility, and solid legislative records.

In parallel, the federal Liberals are engaging in a similar search. Justin Trudeau and Marc Garneau are two local politicians who will help give the Grits some much-needed energy and momentum, at least for the leadership campaign. Both contests are good opportunities for renewal and policy resourcing. They also call on Quebecers who would like to be part of the rebuilding to join up and help shape future orientations.

This is a pivotal time for Quebec and Canada. The Liberal brand needs a makeover, at every level, provincially and federally, to restore its position. It is not so long ago that the federal Grits were thought of as the country’s natural governing party. They are now behind the NDP in Ottawa.

The road ahead will be exciting. All of us can make a difference.

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