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Control public spending, invest in our priorities and modernize government

Québec City, Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - The Chair of the Conseil du trésor and Minister responsible for Government Administration, Mrs. Monique Jérôme-Forget, today tabled the Québec government’s Expenditure Budget for the fiscal year 2004-2005. "We must quickly get Québec out of the budget pitfall in which it has landed as a result of several years of poor management of public spending. The 2004-2005 Expenditure Budget, by allowing us to closely control growth in expenditures, refocus government efforts on the priorities of Quebecers and review how things are done, will foster attaining our objectives," declared the Minister.

"Last year, we tabled an Expenditure Budget that proved the first step in turning around the government’s budgetary situation. We reached the objectives that had been set at the time. In 2004-2005, we will continue in the same direction, with an equal amount of determination," added Mrs. Jérôme-Forget.

Control Government Spending

Government expenditures in 2004-2005 total $54,090 million. This includes $47,151 million for program spending, and $6,939 million allocated to the debt service. "The budget thus includes a 2.9% increase in program spending. This increase is significantly lower than that for the period from 1997-1998 to 2002-2003, which was at 4.6%," explained the Chair of the Conseil du trésor.

The Minister also emphasized that the increase in program spending would be less than that in the gross domestic product. As such, the government’s economic weight should stand at 17.5%, a 0.2% decrease over last year.

According to the Chair of the Conseil du trésor, control over spending in 2004-2005 will represent a serious challenge for the government, given the onset of discussions regarding pay equity and the renewal of the collective agreements of government employees. Mrs. Jérôme-Forget noted that in 2003-2004, remuneration amounted to $25.7 billion, or 56% of all government program spending. "It is important that our negotiations with union organizations respect Québec’s capacity to pay," emphasized the Chair of the Conseil du trésor.

Investing in Our Priorities : $1 Billion Added to Health Budget

By increasing the budgets for health and education by 5.1% and 2.7% respectively, the government confirms its commitment to these two areas. In two years, the government will thus have allocated $2.8 billion more for health and education, including $2.2 billion to restore our health system. This year, an additional billion is added to the budget of the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux to better meet the needs of patients.

As per the action plan and orientations of the government, the budgets for all other departments remain relatively stable in 2004-2005, with a 0.5% cap on growth.

Paving the Way for the Future

The Chair of the Conseil du trésor, at the time of tabling the 2004-2005 Expenditure Budget, reiterated her commitment to modernizing the government in order to meet the basic needs of the public under the best possible conditions while simultaneously considering taxpayers’ capacity to pay. "The status quo has become impossible", emphasized the Minister, noting that Québec’s debt climbed by $16.4 billion since 1997-1998, despite a zero deficit.

In this context, the Chair of the Conseil du trésor announced that she would unveil, in a few weeks, the government’s 2004-2007 action plan for public spending. Prepared following our first efforts at modernizing government, the plan will follow up on one of the strategic directions adopted by the government for the management of public spending in its Shine Among the Best action program. It will focus on four primary objectives, namely, better human resource management, a structural reassessment, a program review and improvements in how things are done.

The Minister indicated that the issue of human resource and workforce management will be a significant priority. In fact, the public service has grown steadily in size since 1997-1998, with the staff level increasing by nearly 20% in six years. Over the coming years, however, the government will be faced with an important decrease in this staff level, mostly as a result of numerous retirements. The action plan will include the proposed measures for addressing this situation and the implementation of actions to promote the renewal of the public service and to ensure that it is representative of all Quebecers.

In another area, the government will continue to grant top priority to developing e-government, by taking full advantage of information and communication technologies. Once implemented, it will provide access to improved, integrated, citizen-focused services, anytime, anywhere.

Lastly, the Minister announced that the government was revising its policies on how things are done in the area of financing fixed assets, so as to ease the pressure on public spending and limit the public debt. To accomplish this, it will prioritize the maintenance of assets by promoting partnerships with the private sector and other levels of government.

Meeting our Commitments

"Giving our citizens responsible government, a government that controls its spending and is focused on the priorities of the people as well as determined to modernize how the public administration gets things done. These are the government’s commitments, as illustrated through the tabling of the 2004-2005 Expenditure Budget, " concluded the Chair of the Conseil du trésor.

The documents comprising the 2004-2005 Expenditure Budget will, following their tabling in the National Assembly, be available on the Secrétariat du Conseil du trésor Web site, under Expenditure Budget.

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