• Mar. 13, 2024
  • Affaires publiques et relations gouvernementales
  • Column, Politics
  • Written by: Suzanne Virgona

“A lacklustre budget, despite a record deficit”

On March 12, the Quebec government delivered its annual budget for 2024. Mathieu Lavallée, Vice President and Associate at Exponentiel, as well as former journalist, trained lawyer, and overall political junkie, was present at the closed-door session. He shares his initial thoughts on the impact.

A lackluster budget, despite a record deficit.

After nearly fifteen years of dissecting budgets, mostly in Quebec City and sometimes in Ottawa, I've never been left feeling so unsatisfied.

It's true that expectations were so low, the message having been telegraphed so far in advance. Behind closed doors, few of the observers expressed genuine disappointment. Or, yes, many were disappointed, but since they'd expected it, it was more a case of resignation.

But to say that there was... I don't want to say nothing, but almost nothing?

I’ve seen a budget that was described as "grey". Not because it was dull, but because it clearly targeted seniors and baby boomers.

I've already had "powdered sugar" budgets: just sprinkle a wee bit everywhere in an attempt to please everyone.

One time there was a budget that wasn't particularly exciting, but that many will remember because it announced the abolition of the black penny. A slice of life and (literally) a page in history. At the time, I even suggested to an economist that he frame this page, because he had recommended this measure!

But in this case, I don't even know what we had in our hands yesterday.

The challenges are colossal too. The housing crisis, climate change and biodiversity, public transit, the cultural milieu, the media... We won't go through the whole list again, you know the drill.

Yes, some big chunks were already settled with the collective bargaining agreements between unionized workers and teachers and other government employees.

But then what? Basically, we wait. Yes, we review government spending, business assistance programs, inefficient tax expenditures... But that's cyclical. It keeps coming back.

It's not clear where the economy is headed. Will the Bank of Canada lower its key rate or will it not? So we wait.

Quebec elections will be held in 2026, so political jousting calls for the best decisions to be made in the next two budgets. So we wait.

But does the magnitude of the challenges facing us afford us the luxury of waiting?