PQ supporters celebrate at the Métropolis de Montréal on September 4
Credits: MAXIME DELAND/QMI AGENCY
The victory by Pauline Marois is not due to Quebecers running into the warm embrace of the sovereignty movement but rather a rejection of an old, tired and corrupt Liberal government led by Jean Charest. After nine years of failing to deliver promises and mired in claims of bid rigging for government contracting, Quebecers had simply grown tired of the Charest government.
Marois has won just about a third of the votes cast in this election and she can hardly claim of having a mandate to take Quebec into a third referendum. Still, her election changes the dynamic in federal-provincial relations.
Will Stephen Harper follow the Mulroney path and attempt to appease Quebec's demands or follow the Chretien path of standing firm? I'd put my money on Harper standing firm and treating Quebec as any other province. This tactic has taken support for separation to less than 30%, lower than the PQ's vote total.
The real problem with the PQ win is that the party has no plan for dealing with Quebec's real issues such as the economy and unsustainable government spending.
Quebec has the highest debt level per capita of any province and among the highest taxes in North America. The province's unemployment rate is 7.7%, the same as Ontario's and just a bit higher than the national average of 7.3%, but a smaller percentage of Quebecers are actually working or looking for work.
All of this results in a sluggish economy where Quebecers actually earn less than most other Canadians. According to Statistics Canada, the median family income for Quebecers in 2010 was $65,900 compared to $71,540 in Ontario and $85,380 in Alberta.
None of this will change with the PQ win.
The PQ has promoted a $10 billion slush fund paid for through the pension fund to help prevent foreign companies from taking over Quebec companies. If that weren't enough to scare away investors looking to start companies and create jobs then her plan to boost the capital gains tax from 50% to 75% is.
Imagine a small business owner or farmer getting ready to retire by selling their business, most of their hard earned gain would be taken by a government that can't get its own fiscal house in order. Marois has also suggested that there should be a 30% tax on excess profits in the mining industry and a ban on the province actually exploiting some of the natural resources that could employ thousands and generate billions in government revenue.
Why can Quebec do this? Because we allow them to.
Successive Quebec governments have promised and delivered on lavish social welfare programs that the province could not afford on its own. From $7 a day daycare to among the lowest university tuition in the country it is tax dollars from the rest of Canada that allows Quebec to live beyond its means.
Since 1957, when the equalization program was started, Quebec has taken half the money doled out and has never spent a single year as a "have" province. Fixing this mess should have been central to the Quebec election but with the rest of the country agreeing to pay their bills Quebecers argued about language, religion and everything but the economy.
It's time for the rest of Canada to tell Quebec to grow up and pay its own bills.