PQ tables budget, sets stage for spring election

Quebec's Minister of Finance Nicolas Marceau speaks as he presents his budget at the National...

Quebec's Minister of Finance Nicolas Marceau speaks as he presents his budget at the National Assembly in Quebec City, February 20, 2014. REUTERS/Jacques Boissinot

QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 7:05 PM ET

QUEBEC CITY - Quebec's finance minister tabled a budget Thursday that both opposition parties immediately rejected, setting the stage for a spring election.

The prudent budget, likely to form the backbone of the Parti Quebecois' campaign platform, includes fee hikes, spending cuts and no major promises.

Quebec has the highest per-capita debt in the country, a high tax burden and lagging productivity, according to recent studies, giving the PQ little wiggle room.

Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau announced no tax increases but the minister wants to lift a freeze on $7-a-day daycare rates and hike hydro rates.

The document reports a $2.5 billion deficit for this year, $1.75 billion next year and a balanced budget in 2015-16.

The PQ wants to merge school boards, renegotiate contracts with doctors and trim $150 million from departments.

Marceau said he wants support from the opposition Liberals and the third party in the legislature, the CAQ, to pass the budget.

Both parties, however, have said they'll topple the 17-month-old government over the budget once legislators return from spring break in mid-March. Quebecers would likely go to the polls in April.

"You have just witnessed the launch of the campaign," Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard told reporters Thursday. "We won't even have a chance to vote on the budget."

The PQ likely won't shed any tears if its government falls.

A CROP poll taken last week indicated the separatists had a six-point lead over the Liberals.

-With files from Jean-Luc Lavallee


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