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Quebec gov't livid over budget it describes as 'economic sabotage' exercise

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QUEBEC - Quebec's sovereigntist government expressed fury Thursday over a budget it called a "frontal attack" on the province's economic interests.

The provincial finance minister rattled off a list of grievances, including changes to the skills-training program which he said he hoped to see quashed.

"This is an economic sabotage exercise," Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau said in Quebec City.

"It's worse than being abandoned. If they'd simply left us alone, we'd have been happy enough, but they didn't even do that. They're not leaving us alone — they're attacking us."

He said the skills-training program was already working well in Quebec and was aligned with non-government partners, and he described the federal initiative as useless replication.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

He decried the notion that Quebec's struggling forestry sector would get one-10th of the sum available for Ontario's manufacturing sector in an economic-development fund.

What really got Marceau exercised, however, was the elimination of the tax credit for union venture-capital funds — which in Quebec are an extremely popular investment vehicle.

He said 88 per cent of the $355 million in the federal clawback under that change would come from Quebec investors.

Marceau said the Tories got their majority win without Quebec in 2011 and appeared set to govern to please their base outside the province.

"I'm very, very disappointed," he said of the tax-credit change. "I'm furious."

He said those funds help unions and businesses work together on new projects but, he suggested, perhaps the Harper government had some ideological aversion to that very principle.

He also expressed disbelief that the government was trying to revive a national securities regulator after its approach was rejected by the Supreme Court.

The Parti Quebecois government was elected last fall with a minority government, with a promise in its platform to make the case that being part of Canada was hurting the province's interests.

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