Media Releases

The Montreal Economic Institute updates its Quebec debt clock

Montreal, March 31, 2010 – To take account of the latest data from the Quebec Department of Finance in the budget released yesterday, the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI) is updating its Quebec debt clock. The clock shows Quebec’s rising debt in real time and may be seen at www.iedm.org.

Quebec’s debt has now reached $218.5 billion, up $10.1 billion since last year. According to an estimate based on its average increase over the last five years, the debt will continue to grow in 2010-2011 at a pace of $8 billion a year, $22 million a day, or $15,175 a minute.

MEI researcher David Descôteaux explained that the Quebec debt clock includes all of the Quebec government’s financial obligations, including debts of the health and education systems, of Hydro-Québec and of municipalities. The $218.5-billion figure thus represents the overall public sector debt as published by the Department of Finance itself.

Mr. Descôteaux added: “Like the Department of Finance and the Auditor General, we do not take assets into account in calculating total public sector debt. This position is easy to justify: there is no simple way to determine market value for government-owned fixed assets and infrastructure, and it is highly unlikely that the government will one day sell schools or bridges to repay the debt. These assets clearly form part of Quebecers’ financial heritage, but they don’t reduce the total bill – or the rising interest – that taxpayers will have to cover through future tax increases.”

The debt clock lets taxpayers view Quebec’s debt level and its continuous rise. “On the one hand,” notes MEI vice president Jasmin Guénette, “Quebecers have to become aware of just how serious their collective indebtedness really is. On the other hand, the government must also be attentive to this situation and must show ways of becoming more efficient and reducing its spending. To inform the public, we have decided to advertise tomorrow on the websites of several media.”

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The Montreal Economic Institute (MEI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research and educational organization. Through studies and conferences, the MEI informs public debates in Quebec and Canada by suggesting wealth-generating reforms based on market mechanisms.

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Additional information: a Q&A about the debt clock can be found on the MEI’s website at www.iedm.org

Information and interview requests: Ariane Gauthier, communications coordinator, Montreal Economic Institute, Tel.: 514 273-0969 ext. 2231 / Cell: 514 603-8746 / E-mail: agauthier@iedm.org

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