10/05/2012 02:21 EDT | Updated 12/05/2012 05:12 EST

New Quebec government: finances in worse shape than previously indicated

MONTREAL - Quebec's finance minister trotted out a well-worn comment of new governments the world over on Friday — the books are in worse shape than expected.

Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau said government spending estimates are several hundred million dollars higher than announced by the recently defeated Liberal government.

''The situation we are discovering on a gradual basis will require a major turnaround in how things are managed,'' Marceau told a news conference just a few weeks after the Parti Quebecois officially took power.

''Economic growth is lower than the previous government anticipated and spending is higher than forecast.''

His colleague, Treasury Board Minister Stephane Bedard, accused the Liberals of being spendthrift ahead of the recent election that saw the Liberals relinquish power after nine years.

''The Liberals let go of the steering wheel and by all accounts their agenda seemed much more electoral than financial,'' said Bedard.

''They opted for pleasing the population instead of doing what they should have been doing.''

Liberal reaction was swift and dismissive.

The PQ government is acting like a ''chicken with its head cut off,'' said Sam Hamad, the party's Treasury Board critic.

''Every year, there are unforeseen costs, but to respect the budget, cuts are made elsewhere. We did that for nine years. It's the norm.''

Marceau said the new government will still meet the objective of a $1.5-billion deficit in the current fiscal year and a balanced budget in 2013-14.

He also said consumption has slipped in the province and that Quebec exports are not at the level they should be.

Hamad fired back that all the PQ is proposing is ''taxing people and blocking development.''