Quebec election: Liberals correct costed platform after underestimating debt

·3 min read

MONTREAL — The Quebec Liberals were forced to correct their costed platform on Wednesday, confirming their debt figures were off by more than $16 billion.

A revised version of the Liberal financial framework shows the party underestimated the net provincial debt, which would come in at $256.8 billion at the end of their mandate instead of the $240.6 billion initially projected on Sept. 4.

The gaffe came to light as Dominique Anglade, who has repeatedly touted her party as the best for the economy, prepared to take part in her first debate as Liberal leader on Thursday. Carlos Leitao, a former Liberal finance minister responsible for the platform, confirmed the error, first reported by La Presse.

Leitao said the revised figures don't change the party's platform or its promises, and he insisted the framework is responsible and the debt-to-GDP ratio would still decrease under a Liberal government.

"A costed platform is above all a political document where we establish our priorities, our choices," Leitao said. "We chose to help families and help citizens in a difficult period."

Leitao, who is not seeking re-election but is presiding over the Liberal campaign, told reporters in Quebec City that he wasn't embarrassed and said the calculation of debt is complex.

"Probably it was done a little too quickly. I concede this," Leitao said. "But we are not the only ones making adjustments.”

He said that there isn't an army of civil servants to help create party documents, unlike the work that goes into a provincial budget. He added that the province's pre-election financial report was only tabled in mid-August, leaving parties little time to piece together their costed platforms.

Most party leaders marked the midway point of the 36-day campaign by taking the day to prepare for Thursday's debate.

But Conservative Party of Quebec Leader Éric Duhaime, who presented his own costed platform Wednesday, said he found it ironic after the Liberal multibillion-dollar error that a day earlier Anglade had questioned whether he was fit to run for premier because he had failed to pay thousands of dollars of municipal taxes.

Duhaime's Conservatives have announced massive tax cuts that would see government revenues fall but yield a surplus within three years, according to party projections.

The party is proposing $30 billion in income tax cuts over a five-year period while generating a surplus by the end of 2024-25. The party says it would generate cost savings by introducing more private sector involvement in the health system and ending government corporate handouts.

“We don't think it's the government's role to choose winners and losers among private companies," Duhaime said. "Lowering taxes for everyone seems to me a much more neutral step on the part of the state than to pick winners.”

Late Tuesday, the Parti Québécois had to correct its platform hours after presenting it, blaming a spreadsheet error for overstating the cost of its commitments and of the projected deficit in the final year of a PQ mandate.

The financial framework has been verified by an economics professor at the University of Ottawa, and PQ Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon boasted that his was the only party to present a framework checked by an independent expert.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2022.

The Canadian Press