Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao and Treasury Board President Pierre Moreau posted dark mines on Wednesday, commenting on the latest federal budget.
Quebec, they said in a press briefing, is “extremely disappointed and concerned” that the Trudeau government has totally ignored its priorities for funding three major public transit infrastructure projects.
The Quebec government announced its colors by expecting Ottawa to fund substantially three major transit projects currently on the drawing table: the electric train (REM) and the extension of the blue line to the east Metro in Montreal, and the Rapid Bus Service (SRB) in Quebec City.
In a press briefing Tuesday, Prime Minister Philippe Couillard said he wanted to see “a strong signal” in the federal budget, in the form of precise, quantified and firm commitments attached to these three major public transit projects in Quebec. ‘Advertise very costly.
Yet this signal is nowhere to be seen in the Morneau budget, Minister Moreau pointed out, looking in vain for a few lines indicating that the federal government would be “on the go” to pay part of the bill. The signal expected, “we do not find him,” he summed up.
Minister Moreau asks Quebec MPs in the federal Liberal caucus to account for the lack of space for Quebec’s claims in the budget tabled Wednesday in Ottawa.
For his part, Minister Leitao said the budget had “positive” aspects, but he seemed to have trouble finding one. He remained vague and cited recognition of the principle of asymmetry as a positive point.
Another budgetary priority of Quebec that has been set aside: Montreal’s choice to install the future headquarters of the Infrastructure Bank of Canada.
Again, there is nothing in the budget that indicates that Ottawa will prefer Montreal to Toronto or Calgary, its two rivals.
Québec nevertheless wished to read “a more precise message” announcing the intentions of Ottawa in the budget, noted Minister Moreau, who would not understand why Montreal is not “favored” at the time of the choice.
For its part, the official opposition welcomed the federal budget as a real slap in the face of Quebec.
“Prime Minister Couillard was completely ignored by (Prime Minister) Trudeau,” said Finance Spokesperson Nicolas Marceau.
He believes that the last Morneau budget is “an insult” for Quebec, while its demands have not received the desired result, whether in the forestry sector or in the financing of public transit infrastructure .
According to him, there is absolutely nothing in this budget for Quebec, which hoped that Ottawa would have lending guarantees for the forestry industry, at a time when the US government is increasingly protectionist.
As for the Coalition Future Québec, public finance critic François Bonnardel went on to say that there was “absolutely nothing for Quebec in this budget”.
He made Premier Couillard responsible, because he “was not able to bring his demands with confidence” to Ottawa.