Welcome to 2015 – Year 2 of Austerity! (Le Journal de Montréal)

By Josée Legault
Originally published on: January 4, 2015
See original French version here: http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2015/01/04/bienvenue-a-2015—lan-deux-de-lausterite 

You may have missed it while you were 1) busy scraping ice, or 2) recovering from the holidays, but in Québec, 2015 will greet us with a pile of fee hikes.

Fees that only add to, it goes without saying, those of the past few years, which are also inflated.

Welcome to 2015 – Year 2 of the Era of Austerity!

As was calculated here, for a family that is said to be middle class—a concept that is increasingly “flexible” depending on the government of the moment–, they will pay an extra $1300 in 2015 only.

As I wrote here, the middle class will get out ok in the end. We nevertheless forget that austerity measures combined with hikes in fees hit people with low revenues even harder – whether employed or not.

Incidentally, let us recall that the skewer of fee hikes is effectively the herniate of the liberal ex-minister of Finances, Raymond Bachand. He who had baptised this skewer as a “cultural revolution”… A “revolution” which, in transforming the citizen-taxpayer to user-payer, was never disavowed under the Marois government.

All of this is occurring within an economic context where, in addition, the Institute of Statistics of Québec revealed in December that for the first time in almost twenty years, the buying power of Québecois people fell in 2013. An affect that is still being felt… without even counting the debts of many households.

Let us add to this not very shining portrait the loss of almost 100 000 full-time jobs in Québec since the beginning of 2014, as well as the as yet unknown impact of the actual and soon-to-be compressions imposed by the Couillard government in its quest for a zero-deficit.

An indigestable skewer
In addition to food—for which daily costs do not stop rising—here is an overview of some of the main hikes that are waiting for us. For details, see here and here.

  • If Hydro-Québec receives the OK from the Ministry for Energy, count on a hike that could go as high as 4%.
  • Depending on where we live, there will be hikes in municipal and school taxes.
  • The hikes in daycare fees remain mysterious. What will be the concrete impact, in hard cash, for families? Since they will be “modulated” according to parents’ revenues—gross or net revenues (?)—et that blended families are currently ubiquitous, these calculations themselves risk becoming a veritable bureaucratic nightmare.
  • As long as this public institution still exists, Canada Post is raising its fees for parcel delivery by 4.2%.
  • In Montréal, the monthly OPUS card for public transit will cross the $80 mark to rise to $82 this year—already a major investment for people who have little or no incomes. Fees are also going up in the outlying areas. (Let us note nevertheless that Montreal’s STM rates are among the lowest in Canada.)
  • Québecois people who are unionized will be penalized. Their tax credit for their union fees will drop form 20% to 10%.
  • The price of gas is going down, but the government risks breaking us even with a “small” 2% supplementary side tax on it.
  • In waiting for the eventual new Champlain Bridge, tolls on certain highways will also go up.
  • A 4% hike in taxes on car insurance premiums and an increase in the costs of driver’s licenses.

***

Last Saturday, I made the point in my piece that in various ways, 2015 will be a year of political transition. But towards what? A mystery and a gumball…

In light of this skewer of new increases, at least one thing is unfortunately sure: we will “transition” to a new low in the buying power of many Québecois.

Guess what? Like always, it will not be the most fortunate who will suffer.

***

And you?

What will be, for you, the concrete impact of these fee hikes?

Do you believe that they are justified or not?

And above all, how is your level of “confidence” towards the Québec economy faring in these times of austerity?

***

Translated from the original French by Language and Dissent, a collectively-run blog supporting the anti-austerity struggle in Quebec. These are amateur translations written by volunteers; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may have their flaws. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us via email (languageanddissent [at] gmail [dot] com). Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.

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