Philippe Couillard Just Proved That Austerity is Not a Necessity, It’s a Strategy

For over a year, opponents of austerity measures in Quebec have been searching for a way to prove, once and for all, that there was no actual need for all the public sector cuts Philippe Couillard was imposing on all of us. That proof just came in the form of an announcement by…wait for it…Philippe Couillard.

The Quebec Government plans to bail out Bombardier to the tune of $1.32 billion, sending the money directly to help production of the company’s C-series jet, which is two years behind schedule. They’re also borrowing money to do it.

They’re doing this while cutting spending pretty much everywhere else: teachers, firefighter pensions, even the police. Why? Because they have to. Times are tough economically after all, and we all need to tighten our belts.

Well, not all of us, it seems. Members of Quebec’s National Assembly (MNAs), including those in Couillard’s ruling Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ), were already set to receive a “generous” salary increase and now a billion-dollar corporation, represented by one time PLQ MNA and Finance Minister, now lobbyist Raymond Bachand, is set to receive a huge chunk of cash from the Quebec Government.

I have nothing against Bombardier. It’s a company that employs roughly 15 000 people in Quebec. The aerospace industry, as Couillard said in defense of the bailout, is something we should be proud of and try to keep here.

There is nothing wrong with giving a little help to a local company in need when they operate in an industry that is important and pays workers well. While the concept of public funds going to a for-profit corporation, or corporate welfare, irks me and many others, it isn’t the real problem here.

What is absolutely appalling is the blatant dishonesty the Couillard administration still continues to perpetuate. If they just came out and said that they were trying to re-engineer Quebec into a society that was very friendly to corporations with an extremely limited public service and wanted to transfer funds out of the public sector to do it, no matter the human cost, well, fine.

No, not fine. People would revolt. I would revolt. But at least it would be an honest stance, and one that could be fought against on the level of what is best for Quebec.

Instead, the Couillard Government still continues to insist that austerity in the public sector is a necessity. Something they have to do. Bullshit. It’s what they want to do. The Bombardier bailout proves that.

They can find $1.32 billion and give it away to a corporation if they really want to, overnight it seems. Maintaining a strong public sector just isn’t something they’re interested in doing.

Maybe they actually thought people wouldn’t put things together. Maybe they actually see a Bombardier bailout as something completely unrelated to the protests happening in the streets because of their cuts.

It could be because, in PLQ circles, they are different. Corporate welfare is needed because corporations, and the friends of PLQ MNAs who run them, need to thrive. Civil servants need to tighten their belts, because after all, they’re not donating to the party’s fundraising campaigns.

If Couillard and his crew believe their own hype that much, they are in for a wake-up call. If they know what’s really going on and are spinning it their own way, hoping people won’t realize, well, they just miscalculated.

Austerity is not a necessity, it’s a strategy. Philippe Couillard just proved that.

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