Election 2014: Economy matters most to Quebec voters

With the anticipated election campaign under way, Quebec's political parties are defining the issues they want to make the ballot box question. In an EKOS poll posted Wednesday for CBC, 42% of Quebecers said the economy was their top priority this campaign and that hasn't been forgotten by the parties aspiring for your vote.

Statistics Canada announced Friday that Quebec lost 26,000 jobs in February, resulting in another increase to the province's unemployment rate to 7.8% from 7.5%. It is worth noting that the rest of Canada is also struggling with job growth and economic recovery but the second highest number of job losses were in British Columbia at a tune of 10,000. When confronted about the numbers, Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois noted the volatility of monthly job numbers when she said, "I think it's normal."

Quebec's economy remains sluggish. While the PQ promised to have the books balanced by the current fiscal year, the province's interim auditor general said that would be a task that is "to say the least, ambitious." Quebec's deficit for the 2013-14 fiscal year ending March 31 is expected to sit at $2.5 billion and the PQ's budget estimates a $1.7 billion deficit for this year - pushing the break-even date to 2015-16. This, after the province's interim Auditor General, Michel Samson, found the government to be off by $626 million on it's 2012-13 numbers - and that's not good news.

This is only bound to increase Quebec's debt which currently sits at a staggering $264 billion - or $30,202 per Quebecer. Quebec's revenue streams consist of some of the highest taxes in North America, along with $17,851 billion in Equalization Payments from the Federal government - representing 25% of Quebec's total revenues.

To make matters worst, a recent HEC report into the Quebec economy suggests the quality of living has been in decline since 1981 and Statistics Quebec's own data last December showed Quebecers have the second-to-worst after-tax income in Canada.

With Quebecers set to cast their ballots April 7, the Liberals and CAQ aim to make the Economy the major issue and a recent EKOS poll suggests it already is the major issue for 42% of Quebecers followed by Healthcare, the Charter of Values and Quebec Sovereignty.

How the major issues tract with different voting groups:

Election Issue Total Anglophones (n=782) Francophones (n=1009) Allophones (n=223)
Economy/Jobs 42% 37% 43% 39%
Healthcare 10% 6% 11% 6%
Charter of Values 5% 9% 4% 3%
Quebec Sovereignty 4% 6% 4% 2%

Source: EKOS-CBC
To date, each of the parties has presented some of their economic platforms, here are the highlights:

Parti Quebecois

Liberal Party of Quebec

Coalition Avenir du Quebec

Quebec Solidaire

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