PQ: Independence is the route to wealth

The PQ has launched a six-month ad campaign, mainly targeted at the youth, promoting sovereignty as the route to wealth. The ad features Premier Pauline Marois telling Quebecers that if they want to be wealthier, there is no better way than to separate. It is the first major bid for sovereignty outside of election campaigns and referendums and makes the economy its focus. Is this promise realistic?

In the ad, Marois asks if our best interests are really being met when we let other people make decisions for us - referring to Canada. She responds with no and goes on to use petroleum as an example.

"If we were ever to produce petroleum in Quebec, " she says in French, "why would we want to give half of its wealth to Ottawa?" She then makes a crack at the amount of bureaucracy and blames the federal government.

She stated that we currently pay for two revenue agencies, two finance ministers, two transport ministers, two environment ministers, two natural resources ministers, and two tax returns. She calls it inefficient and says independence is the way to remove duplicate bureaucracy and re-invest that money into Quebec's economy.

Quebec is currently in deficit and the PQ's Bill 14 has already divided Quebecers and created conflict with businesses - the major priorities of a country happen to be unity and attracting business. It is one thing to say the "country of Quebec" will have a strong economy and less bureaucracy and it's another thing to show it. Quebec's high taxes and language laws already give it a disadvantage amongst the rest of Canada and arguably the world, which explains why it receives over $8 billion in equalization payments from Ottawa which comes primarily from Alberta.

There is a potential to produce $200-$300 billion in revenue from untouched Oil in the Anticosti Islands in the Gulf of St Lawrence but “It really is very hypothetical and if it does happen it's very far in the future as well,” said Ian Irvine, an economics professor at Concordia University.

Quebec currently has the highest debt in Canada clocking in at over $255 billion and the worse debt to GDP ratio, 51%, in Canada. The only good news is that its deficit is about 1% of the GDP and government spending is fairly stable. Another thing worth noting is the large public sector in Quebec, one which contributes to this debt and deficit and with a bit of austerity could help improve the previous numbers over time.

In terms of improving Quebec's economy, the government should focus on liberating markets and lifting regulations. This idea in itself is one the PQ would reject making high royalties on resource development their platform priority and further regulations, especially in language, as their main focus throughout their mandate. Quebec regulates language the most in the world and it is hindering personal freedoms, minority rights and more relevant to the cause of independence: hindering Quebec's economic opportunities.

History and economists will teach us one thing: when you have a weak economy with an overburden of taxes, increasing spending and multiplying red tape, the solution is austerity, not higher taxes, not more spending and certainly not red tape.

Everything so far addresses Marois's point. She is absolutely right, we are losing quite a bit through duplication. The question is: is independence the solution? Furthermore are the PQ ready to give up a lot of what they stand for to conform to the world's markets?

Let's not kid ourselves, becoming a country is not as easy as making an ad about it. Quebec as a country would need to survive on its own. Right now, Quebec is receiving $8 billion in equalization from Ottawa while Alberta shells that out and then some from their profits. Let's not kid ourselves, if Quebec's economy was so strong, it wouldn't need equalization, it would be giving equalization - in which case Marois would have a very substantive argument for sovereignty, as Alberta Premier Alison Redford currently has if she were to ever consider such an idea.

Does Quebec have the potential to reach a state where its independence could be considered? Only time will tell but one thing is certain: In order for a sovereign Quebec to survive a harsh market in a globalizing world, it will need to ditch Bill 14, it will need to ditch Law 101, and it will need to remove the red tape it layered onto what currently exists with the federal government. Quebec's massive debt from the start, not to mention how much higher it will climb upon becoming a country, will cripple Quebec's financial status on the world stage and inevitably lead to a debt crisis as bad as the one Greece recently had.

Marois is right, there is too much bureaucracy and Quebecers aren't benefiting. Marois, however, is wrong with the solution. Rather than create extra bureaucracy and dig deeper into debt and lose whatever financial status the province has thanks to the fact it is in Canada, and inevitably fail at its purpose: protecting and creating pride in Quebec culture, why not accept Quebec's status as a province?

Accepting provincial status in Canada is the best way for Quebecers to protect their culture and become richer. Eliminating departments geared at replicating Quebec's status as a country and slicing down departments to standardize and harmonize with services that already exist in Ottawa will do exactly what Marois wants to do with separation and likely cost less. Quebec's provincial status protects its economy by letting Canada deal with financial ratings and reputation - something that has kept Quebec afloat. There is also another, and very obvious, argument. The point of Canada, is to pool resources and improve economic outcomes for everyone in the union. The fisheries out east, Alberta's oil, and the country's overall larger population allows it to reduce every individual's share of the burden to keep it running so everyone benefits.

One more point to add: with a birth rate of only 11%, Quebec will and currently does, rely on immigration to fill the work force. What immigrants, that we currently need, will come to Quebec if its government is overbearing on their lives with taxes and ridiculous language laws?

If companies were to suddenly leave Quebec due to an unstable new economy with heavy regulation  causing Quebec to become a ghetto, where is the wealth Marois speaks of? Do you think Marois is ready to ditch a history of prejudice legislation and language regulations, which supposedly protect Quebec culture, to ultimately cut ties with Canada and watch the markets swallow Quebec alive? The reality is: in today's context and with the types of laws and values the PQ stand for, you cannot protect Quebec's culture and create wealth as a country at the same time. What do you think? Do you agree with the new PQ message? Share this article, join the discussion and let us know what you think: FacebookTwitterGoogle+.

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