Austerity fashioned from candle ends (Le Journal de Montréal)

By Ianik Marcil
Originally published on February 19, 2015
See original French text here: http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2015/02/19/austerite-de-bout-de-chandelles

After the “Hats Off, Girls!” program, which encourages young women to choose non-traditional occupations, today we learn that the Couillard government is slashing the “Secondaire en spectacle” [High schools on stage] program. Yet another short-sighted decision, which shows that the current government, under the pretext of “fiscal restraint”, is pursuing ideological goals.

There is nothing illegitimate about the party in power redefining the size and role of government. This is an act of political vision that can be defended in the democratic game. On the other hand, using the argument of a balanced budget as a weapon to dismantle specific programs is at best misleading, and at worst, is an intellectual fraud and deceit.

I have written it enough in these columns and elsewhere – and I’m obviously not the only one -: there is no urgency or imminent disaster. To suggest otherwise, as do Philippe Couillard, Martin Coiteux and Carlos Leitão, is to downright falsify reality.

Worse, these arguments are used to justify cuts in programs that are very inexpensive, but which offer much socially and economically. For example, the ineffable [now ex-] Minister Bolduc suspending the regional competition program “Hats Off, Girls!” will collectively save us a luxurious sum of $ 64,000, or 0.000065% of the total budget of the Government of Quebec (97,45 billion dollars). Similarly, cuts to the “Secondaire en spectacle” program are $ 210,000, again, an insignificant amount.

The neo-conservative government in Québec chose targets for reasons which can not be other than ideological. Like the cuts that they wanted to do in the popular science agencies last December, through drastic cuts in the budget of the Council of Status of Women or the threat to close the regional music conservatories, the government is showing that it is clearly opposed to initiatives to promote the entry of women into the labor market, to promote the arts and sciences and regional development.

Meanwhile, we also learn today that the Couillard government will introduce legislation to exempt the Port Daniel cement plant project from any environmental assessment by the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE). A project, remember, supported by the State to the tune of $ 250 million in loan guarantees and direct investment of $ 100 million from Investissement Québec. A commitment of $ 350 million for a project that is anything but  structured in the economic plan. Because a structuring event should, in the long term, mesh the various players in the sector so that they can flourish: subcontracting and innovative SMEs, training the workforce, exports, etc. Concrete, we have been manufacturing since ancient Rome. Nothing in this project justifies such a state investment.

Conversely, financially inexpensive programs like “Hats Off, Girls!” Or “Secondaire en spectacle” are structural, allowing the participation of young women in the labor market or for young students to develop their artistic talents.

The Couillard government is sure showing us where it sleeps: the state is there to support large industry, through bypassing our institutions to avoid showing its projects could be harmful to the environment of our communities, and in being absent in supporting community initiatives for the development of art, science and technology. If this is not ideology, I wonder what is.

***

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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