A shining star

Politicians so often have proved to be a disappointment, so we are inclined to look askance at them.

However, every now and then someone appears to vindicate our trust. One such person is Carlos Leitao, the relatively new Liberal finance minister in Quebec. He should be a shining star for all in Quebec, extending throughout Canada.

Leitao came to Canada from Portugal and received a BA degree in economics from McGill University. He then worked in the financial and banking sectors. After 30 years in that stint, in 2008 he was ranked by Bloomberg News as the world’s second best economist.

Subsequently he ran in Quebec as a provincial candidate, winning more than 87 per cent of the votes. The newly-elected premier, Philippe Couillard, selected him to be minister of finance.

He became the second best member of the new Quebec provincial government, and began working easily with the federal finance minister.

Leitao, a novice in the political scene, clearly surmounted all the difficulties in fighting an election campaign against the separatist Parti Quebecois and began implementing his agenda.

As a trained economist he is aware of the high level of Quebec’s debt and the challenges that poses on reining in the budgetary problems. He has called for austerity reviews on spending and taxes. Also, he is starting to curb the hitherto untouchable municipal pension plan for the police and the firefighters. Despite strong protests, they would be required to participate in curtailing the $4-billion shortfall.

He obviously has recognized that governments in the province have been antagonizing the private sector there. The result was that Quebec, which had been the financial capital of Canada, lost that position to Ontario.

Then in many ways Quebec’s economy lagged badly, despite its huge resources of cheap power from Hydro Quebec. Montreal increasingly appeared rundown, with services falling behind. Entrepreneurs progressively shifted their operation, first to Ontario and then to the west.

Obviously there had to be changes as the Quebec economy was being  strangled by over-regulation and high taxes; they had become recipes for disaster.

Leitao began with fundamental tax reform. He introduced this major tax overhaul package to simplify the system and make it more attractive for investment. He was ruthless in eliminating programs that interfered with his long-term goals.

We can hope and believe that once again our political process will prove to be resilient.

Then our federal and provincial governments can follow the examples of Carlos Leitao, paving the way for great economic success that already appears to be underway in Quebec.



Bruce Whitestone