Quebec projects budget deficit due to teachers’ deal

By The Canadian Press

Quebec Premier François Legault promised the major investments in education announced Sunday would not lead to a period of austerity, despite an anticipated budget deficit.

Legault reiterated at a press conference that education must be a priority for his government. He said he was “very proud” of the agreement reached with the education unions.

“We made the choice to make a big push to improve the working conditions of staff in the education network,” he said.

Saying the additional expenses were not planned in the last budget, Legault warned that the choice “to invest massively in public services will have financial consequences.

“There will be no cuts in services, there will be no austerity and there will be no increase in taxes.”

Legault was accompanied at the press conference in Montreal by Quebec Education Minister Bernard Drainville, and the president of the Treasury Board, Sonia LeBel.

The Quebec government highlighted “important progress” for the education network, aimed at guaranteeing stability of the network as well as better support and greater autonomy for teaching staff.

The government has committed to providing 4,000 classroom assistants and creating 5,000 new permanent positions for teaching staff.

Salary was at the heart of the last round of negotiations. The agreement guarantees new teachers will receive a starting salary of $65,000 per year. The maximum salary increased from $92,000 to $109,000.

Premier Legault provoking unions?

The Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE) adopted an agreement with the government last month while five of the nine unions spoke out in favour of the new collective agreement.

For the Fédération des syndicats de l’enseignement (FSE), the agreements at the sectoral tables have been ratified, but the members have not yet officially spoken out on the salary issues, which are being discussed by the Common Front.

The president of the FSE, Josée Scalabrini, perceived Legault’s media outing Sunday as a “provocation.”

“We are still trying to understand what this outing was for,” Scalabrini said.

“We still do not understand why the government, instead of sending a positive message to teachers, started talking about a budget deficit.”

–This report by La Presse Canadienne was translated by CityNews

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