The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

March 05, 2015 06:30 ET

The Fraser Institute: Quebec's Upcoming Budget-An Opportunity for Bold Action on Debt and Taxes

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwired - March 5, 2015) - With the provincial budget set for release later this month, the government could improve Quebec's economic prospects by targeting debt and taxes, finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

The study, Quebec's 2015 Budget: Bold Action on Debt and Taxes Needed, spotlights Quebec's deep fiscal problems, which include the largest provincial debt burden in Canada and an uncompetitive tax regime.

"The government has been forthright about the province's fiscal challenges and has already taken some important initial steps. But given the extent of the problem, major reforms are needed to right Quebec's fiscal ship," said Charles Lammam, study co-author and associate director of tax and fiscal policy at the Fraser Institute.

Consider Quebec's provincial government debt.

Between 2004/05 and 2013/14, Quebec's debt increased by 83 per cent-to $181.3 billion from $99 billion. The debt now equals 50 per cent of the province's GDP (the value of all goods and services produced in the province). When broken down on a per person basis, every Quebecer owes $22,230 in government debt.

Governments, like families, have to pay interest on the money they borrow. Today, interest payments consume more than 11 cents of every dollar collected by the Quebec government.

"With interest payments eating up government revenues, there's less money left for programs such as health care and education, or much-needed tax relief," Lammam said.

On the tax front, Quebec's personal income tax system includes some of the highest tax rates in Canada. For example, Quebec taxpayers earning $50,000 face the highest provincial income tax rate in the country at over 16 per cent-more than twice the provincial rate in British Columbia.

When all types of taxes are considered (federal, provincial and local), Quebec families endure the third highest total tax burden in Canada. In 2014, the total tax bill consumed an estimated 44.7 per cent of an average Quebec family's income.

"High and uncompetitive taxes make it harder for Quebec to attract and retain skilled workers, entrepreneurs and investment, which help drive the economy forward," Lammam said.

"In Quebec's upcoming budget, reducing and reforming government spending would create the fiscal capacity to rein in debt and reform taxes while avoiding future budget deficits."

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The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of think-tanks in 87 countries. Its mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit www.fraserinstitute.org

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