Budget doesn't do enough to address labour shortage, help nurses: groups
Quebec's budget, which dropped Thursday afternoon, is designed to keep the economy strong by investing in businesses.
Investissement Quebec will receive more money to help companies expand: going from $4 billion up to $5 billion.
“It supports innovation. It supports all the affairs initiatives in artificial intelligence, but also genomics – all areas strong for Montreal,” said Michel Leblanc, head of the Montreal Chamber of Commerce.
The budget includes $1.7 billion over five years to help companies find workers, including programs to keep seniors working longer and training programs for immigrants.
“The budget really answers a lot of requests,” said Leblanc.
Business groups, however, say it still doesn't do enough to address the province’s worker shortage.
“Other than the measures that are in the budget, we will need eventually to increase our immigration levels to be able to answer to the labour shortage,” said Veronique Proulx, president of the Quebec Manufacturing Association.
For taxpayers, the government has repeated that it would put more money into the pockets of Quebecers – although it's not coming through typical tax cuts.
There is $250 every two years to buy glasses for children under 18. The family allowance goes up $500 a year per, per child – but only for families with more than one child.
School taxes are being lowered with the goal of reaching a single rate in Quebec within three years. That rate will be based on the current lowest rate.
“As we can see in the budget, there were massive surpluses and instead of giving it back to Quebecers, they're just keeping it in the government pockets and for us, this is a missed opportunity,” said Renaud Brossard of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation.
Healthcare workers say the budget doesn't do enough for them: Nurses were hoping for an extra $350 million per year to hire more nurses. Instead, there's $200 million for all healthcare workers
“A nurse today that is working in emergency, that is after a shift, that is running around, that is dealing with forced overtime – the question is, how is this budget going to help her?” said Roberto Bomba of the Quebec Federation of Nurses.
There is $230 million in new money for education, which will mostly help schools in poor areas and hire more support staff for students with learning disabilities.
“The budget is about 200 classes over the province of Quebec. We have to remember there are more than 3,000 schools in Quebec, so that's a very small for the problems we have,” said Pierre-Antoine Harvey of union group Centrale des syndicats du Québec.
There is good news on the debt: The government has been paying it down and plans to continue doing so for the next five years. For context: The interest on the debt alone cost Quebecers $9 billion last year.