MONTREAL, Feb. 20 -- The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal issued the following news release:
The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal has reviewed the budget tabled today by Quebec's Minister of Finance and the Economy, Nicolas Marceau. "This budget essentially confirms the string of government announcements made in recent months," said the President and CEO of the Board of Trade, Michel Leblanc. "It reaffirms that the budget will be balanced in two years, without indicating how that will be accomplished in the medium term. This budget does nothing to reassure the business community about the long-term viability of public finances."
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"The budget shows spending control in the very short term and a search for increased efficiency in education and health programs," Michel Leblanc said. "However, the challenge of balancing public finances -- in the context of a rapidly aging population -- remains. It has been four years since Quebec's economy posted any growth. And yet the government is putting off balancing the budget, thereby increasing its short-term debt. What's more, as the auditor general has shown, forecasts for economic growth have been systematically overestimated and public spending underestimated. This confirms that we are living beyond our means and are in collective denial about it. A thorough review of the basket of services is needed."
"The government hasn't increased the corporate tax burden. That's the good news," Mr. Leblanc said. "But it needs to go further and create a tax framework that encourages private investment and wealth creation. We need to go beyond measures targeting specific investments in certain pet sectors and instead improve the business environment and the competitiveness of the entire corporate fiscal framework."
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"The budget devotes some attention to the city," Michel Leblanc said. "The confirmation of previously announced investments to mark the 375th anniversary, financing for a public transit link along the future Champlain Bridge and the re-establishment of an annual transfer of $25 million to the Ville de Montreal are all positive for the city. These are in addition to measures targeting culture, increased funding for venture capital and measures to better protect head offices. These efforts are in response to recommendations the Board of Trade made in January and recognize that Quebec's development depends on strengthening its largest city. We applaud these initiatives and expect future budgets to have a section devoted to strengthening the city."
"We are particularly pleased with the government's positive response to the report of the Task Force on Protecting Quebec Businesses," Michel Leblanc said. "We applaud its intention as stated in the budget to amend the Business Corporations Act to better equip boards of directors to deal with unsolicited takeover bids. Such measures consolidate Montreal's role as a decision-making centre by helping us retain head offices, which are essential to the city's development."
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