Quebec's reckless pace of ill-advised change

Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois. (QMI Agency/Joel Lemay)

Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois. (QMI Agency/Joel Lemay)

Michel Kelly-Gagnon, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:04 PM ET

It's not often that a feature film celebrates individualism and the free market. On the contrary, money and the people who make it are almost invariably presented as evil in Hollywood movies where these types of topics are raised.

Which is why I'm really looking forward to seeing the recently released Atlas Shrugged Part II, based on the novel by Ayn Rand.

Given the current political context in my home province of Quebec, one line in particular from the trailer literally jumped out at me, where the Taggart brother says: "It's all happening so fast." The character says this in context to government powers that are increasing rapidly and dangerously through a multiplication of new regulations and new taxes.

 

 

My wife, who hadn't seen that trailer, made the exact same comment at the dinner table, word for word, in an almost identical (albeit slightly less dramatic) context. But she wasn't referring to Ayn Rand's fictional world; she was referring to what's really happening in Quebec.

As readers will know, the Parti Quebecois won Quebec's provincial election on Sept. 4. Even if it only won 54 out of 125 seats and got less than a third of the popular vote, it currently forms the government. In just a few weeks, it has announced the following measures:

  • Abolishing English lessons starting in Grade 1
  • Reducing intensive English in Grade 6
  • Increasing the focus on the sovereignty debate in high school history textbooks
  • Cutting funding for schools that select their students based on academic potential
  • Extending language laws to cover the province's daycares
  • Adjusting the flat-rate health tax according to income (backtracking on a campaign promise to abolish the $200 annual fee)
  • Retroactively raising the income tax rate for those who earn $100,000 or more (or is that $130,000 or more? - They keep changing the threshold beyond which the hike would apply)
  • Retroactively increasing taxes on capital gains and dividend income

Faced with resistance from the two main opposition parties, the PQ has backpedalled on some of these announcements, at least for now.

But the general strong drift toward more statism and more socialism is unmistakably clear, and is happening at a pace I have never seen in my over two decades of adult life.

And all of this as Quebec's debt surpasses $250 billion, not even including its share of the federal debt.

Two weeks ago a mother told me that she advised one of her sons to seriously consider the possibility of pursuing his career outside Quebec once his studies are completed. Two days later that same week, a university friend of mine told me during lunch that the would-be American investors in his startup company (who are considering a $5-million investment) have as a prerequisite to their investment that the head office of the new company be located outside the province of Quebec.

Indeed, "it's all happening so fast."

Michel Kelly-Gagnon is president of the Montreal Economic Institute (www.iedm.org). The views reflected in this column are his own.

 


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