All three frontrunners in the provincial Liberal leadership race took time to blast the recently-tabled provincial budget Saturday morning during a party gathering at the Holiday Inn Pointe Claire, where all four candidates took the stage to address supporters.
Although he lauded the PQ for unfreezing Hydro-Quebec fees and keeping the Generations Fund, former finance minister Raymond Bachand criticized the increased health-tax contribution for people with higher revenues, calling that a fiscal disaster.
"Asking people to pay an extra $1,000 plus a hike of 1.75 per cent is asking them for to $2,000 to $5,000. If you want company headquarters in Montreal and attract people who are running businesses and creating thousands of jobs, you also need people who earn high revenues. You also do not want that doctors move to Ontario and you need high-quality researchers," he said.
Former Health Minister Philippe Couillard was more nuanced when he discussed the recently proposed budget.
"The Parti Québécois' budget is far from ideal, because it has no prospect of economic growth. It is based on very fragile hypotheses that would result in that I think we will need a new budget before 15 months. That said, there have been adjustments to their initial position are such that I believe it is not a budget that deserves triggers a Quebec election or a change of government," he said.
He added one key component to a future Liberal victory would be to win back francophones' votes. In September, the Liberal Party only grabbed 19 per cent of the French mother-tongue vote.
"We need a more decentralized party that is present in all communities of Quebec, in all constituencies. This is very important. Also, we need to talk about the issue of national affirmation in an inclusive manner all over Quebec. We also need to be present, visible in all regions of Quebec. To me this is the key to that question," he said.
As for former transport minister Pierre Moreau, he said categorically that the party is not ready for another election right now. He claims the Liberals need to rebuild and bridge the gap with the young, the francophones and anglophones before venturing into a new election.
"We must rebuild the party platform, consult party members and we must be able to re-solidify our organizations in each of Quebec's 125 ridings before going into a general election. I think Quebecers have asked us to reassess what we need to do. They sent us a clear message. They did not wipe us off the map but they sent us to redo our homework. We need to make a proposal that will become an inevitable option for the next election. The best way to do this is to work with our members, work with our party, with young people, with communities and with francophones. At present, the party is not ready for the next election," he said.