Charest shelving hot issues: critics

Majority of costly reports 'waste of taxpayers' money'

Charest en fin de régime - L'art de ne rien faire

Vincent Geloso - Premier Jean Charest, presiding over Quebec's first minority government in more than a century, is being accused of shelving a series of official reports on a host of contentious issues.
In the 15 months of his government, there have been seven reports at a cost of $15-million. Among the reports' recommendations are raising tuition fees, putting tolls on bridges to access Montreal, rapid elimination for all corporations of the capital tax, removal of barriers between private and public sectors in the health-care system, and cutting the corporate income tax rate.
However, while some of the propositions have been implemented or rejected, most have not been acted upon.
"These reports are a waste of taxpayers' money since no policy came out of them," said Claire Joly from the Ligue des Contribuables, a taxpayer watchdog, who said many of the proposals were just too hot to handle.
Opposition parties also expressed concern at what they see as becoming an official government policy.
"There is a problem, order a report and shelve it," said Marianne Drouin from the Office of the Leader of the Opposition of the Action democratique du Quebec. "They are hiding behind commissions and reports rather than doing something."
Claude Castonguay, the former health minister who prepared a report proposing allowing more room for the private sector in health care, said, "This is a minority government which does not want to act in a negative way, but the problem of funding remains and a majority government will have to tackle it."
He added, "When the report was published, Minister [Philippe] Couillard rejected new sources of funding" but he said other recommendations in his report not concerned with money were acted upon.
The Parti Quebecois also attacked the lack of action. Eric Gamache, from the office of leader Pauline Marois, said, "Millions were spent, people were put to work and the reports were shelved, some even before their publication."
The Liberal government rejected accusations the reports were shelved saying they needed to be discussed before anything was done.
"What is important to know with reports like the Montmarquette report [into public services] is that these are significant proposals so they need to be discussed and we don't consider them shelved," said Catherine Poulin, a spokeswoman for Finance Minister Monique Jerome-Forget.
Dominique Vachon, an economist for the Montreal Economic Institute and former chief economist of the Banque Nationale, said the reports should not have been pushed aside and could damage the provincial economy.
"We are still spending too much, we're facing an economic slowdown and these reforms are needed to put Quebec on a path to growth," said Ms. Vachon.
"If the need for reform and the reform proposals are ignored for too long, the consequences will be that the competitiveness of the Quebec economy will lag."

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