by Eric Duhaime
Is Quebec to Canada what Greece is to Europe? The question is becoming more and more relevant.
In fact, the parallels are frightening.
Two years ago, the Quebec Ministry of Finance did a ranking of the most indebted countries in the developed world. If Quebec were independent, with its debt-to-GDP ratio at 94%, it would have been the fifth worst, just behind Greece in third place at 102.6%! Canada’s ratio was 69.7%.
Now that the Greeks have hit the wall, it’s payback time for them. Last year, the country’s GDP dropped by 6.9% and its unemployment rate skyrocketed to 17.7%. This year, the GDP is expected to drop by another 5% and unemployment to reach over 19%.
The country’s deficit and debt are also out of control.
Another similarity is the perception of the population vis-a-vis the corruption of their political and economic systems. Ninety-eight per cent of Greeks believe corruption has eroded their country. According to a Leger Marketing poll held last April, 85% of Quebecers now believe that their government and the whole construction industry are corrupted.
Greece now needs to adopt an austerity plan if it wants the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to provide them with a $130-billion bailout.
Among other things, the plan includes the elimination of 15,000 public servant jobs on top of cuts of 22% to the minimum wage and other extensive reductions to pensions, social security and the army. It also calls for the privatization of four government-owned corporations.
One worker out of five in Greece is currently a state employee. Similarly, Quebec has the highest ratio of bureaucrats versus the total workforce.
Greece’s economic fiasco has lately become politically unmanageable. On May 6, Greek voters weren’t able to elect a majority government. Even worse, none of the parties were able to form a coalition. Voters will go back to the ballot boxes next Sunday for the second time in 42 days. They have refused to give a green light to the austerity measures. No one wants to admit, as Margaret Thatcher would say, their socialist regime is running “out of other people’s money.” After the riots in February, the country is in complete political chaos.
What is going on right now in the streets of Montreal is as scary. For a much smaller, not to say insignificant, measure to increase the tuition fees that would not affect the poorest and still make Quebec universities the cheapest on the continent, la belle province is going through a major social crisis. Nobody wants to lose their privileges.
Two cultures of entitlement!
Europeans are now wondering what to do with those bankrupt Greeks and many consider kicking them out of the EU if they refuse to tighten their belt, increase their economic autonomy and live within their means.
The day that English-Canadians want to impose structural adjustments to the soon-to-become poorest province of the country or threaten to kick Quebecers out of the Confederation might come sooner than expected.
Categories: Contributor Columns