Newly appointed finance minister’s first priority is to prepare budget

Carlos Leitão aims for June

By Kevin Woodhouse

Although Robert-Baldwin MNA and newly appointed Minister of Finance Carlos Leitão has been doing the media rounds of late talking about his new responsibilities, Leitão told The Suburban in an interview that “this is the last people will be hearing from me publically for a while as my first priority will be preparing a budget for the province that should be ready in June.”

Leitão has two objectives for the upcoming Quebec budget. In the short term, “our objective is to bring the budget back to balance and go for deficit targets of $1.7 billion for next year and zero deficit for the year after.”

Two medium sized objectives, which Leitão confirmed will take a little longer to achieve, are “tax reform and program reviews which I will be working on with my colleague Martin Coiteux who is now treasury board president. We want to stick to these targets but they will require some harsh measures.”

The Quebec Liberal Party commissioned a report by independent economists gauging the province’s deficit and results of that report published last Friday detail “that the deficit is higher than what the PQ had said it was but we can live with that,” Leitão said.

The new finance minister is not planning to just cut social programs as a way of managing the debt and “because we will not increase tariffs, fees or taxes, we will have to examine all government spending including bureaucracy.”

Like his colleagues, Leitão wants to help create “permanent mechanisms to review our spending practices like other provinces have done because running a government is not the same as running a business.”

At the local level, Leitão mentioned that because Jacques Cartier MNA Geoffrey Kelley and Nelligan MNA Martin Coiteux have also received ministerial posts, “election commitments made for the West Island like Train de l’ouest and more funding for the Lakeshore General Hospital will not be forgotten.”

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