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Highlights from Quebec's 2020-2021 budget
QUEBEC CITY -- The Quebec government presented its 2020-2021 budget on Tuesday with a focus on the future: a green economy, education and improving services for Quebecers in need.
Finance Minister Eric Girard presented a balanced budget, ending the fiscal 2019-2020 year with a $1.9-billion surplus. The CAQ government said it expects to maintain the balanced budget throughout 2020-2021 after reinvesting the $2.7-billion surplus for this year into the Generations Fund.
”There was a need for reinvestment in education and healthcare, and that is exactly what it promised,” said Girard.
Because of strong public finances, Girard characterized the economy as resilient and able to manage potential upcoming concerns, including the financial impact of COVID-19, though Liberal finance critic Carlos Leitao said CAQ plan had a “total absence of provision for risk.”
At 43 per cent, its gross domestic product as of March 31, the province’s gross debt burden is at its lowest level in 20 years.
The government is boasting of an all-time low unemployment rate, a rapid increase in household income and a rise in the standard of living above that of Ontario or Canada as a whole.
Expenses exceeded revenues for the second year in a row, with spending up 1.5 per cent this year. Girard said the extra spending was due to a significant surplus and a lowered tax burden that reduced the province’s revenue.
Much of the money promised will be doled out over a five-year span – and therefore hinges on a CAQ re-election.
Here are some highlights:
After pressure to take more action to fight climate change, the CAQ placed the environment at the top of its budget priorities – but was light on details. Girard said the environment minister would be announcing specifics in the weeks and months to come.
The government is doubling its investments to fight climate change with a $6.7-billion plan over six years to build a green economy. In line with international commitments, the province aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 37.5 per cent below its 1990 level by 2030.
Public and electric transit:
- $15.8 billion for public transit, including electric transit projects in Montreal, Laval, Longueuil, Quebec City, Gatineau and Chambly.
- $1.4 billion over six years for the Roulez Vert program to install charging stations and encouraging people to buy electric cars.
- $150 million to continue the Chauffez vert program through 2026, encouraging homeowners to replace their fossil fuel heating systems with electric or other renewable energy.
Energy transition in business and industrial sectors:
- $1.3 billion to encourage businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with conversion and energy-efficient projects.
Flood mitigation: $473 million
Sustainable agriculture: $125 million
Managing residual materials: $83 million
The budget includes $5.9 billion over the next five years to put money back into Quebecers’ pockets, reiterating that it has already returned $182 million to homeowners this year as it moves toward a single school tax rate.
$1.5 billion will be invested into education in the next five years, with:
- $817 to keep kids in school and improve educational success, in part by hiring more teachers and other professionals.
- $550 million to boost the number of college and university graduates.
-$137 million over five years for Kindergarten for four-year-olds. A total of 350 new Kindergarten classes for four-year-olds will be added this year, bringing the total to 1,010 classes, moving toward its goal of 2,600 classes within four years.
- $126 million to hire new resources to support students with special needs and creating at least 150 new special classes for kids.
-$1.5 billion for regional economic development and natural resources.
- $1 billion over the next five years to boost business competitiveness, including $556 million for the C3i, a new tax credit to upgrade equipment and software, and $334 to support innovation.
- $407 million over five years to support culture, including film and television production, the music industry, cultural vision and innovation, and cultural infrastructure in the regions.
- $316 million by 2024-2025 to support the tourism sector.
HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES
The government is budgeting $5.4 billion over five years, including $1.1 billion this year, for health and social services.
Following the death of a young girl in Granby, the government said it is “aware of the unacceptable child abuse or neglect that takes place,” and is spending $450 million over five years to hire social workers throughout Quebec. This amount comes in addition to resources announced last year that led to the addition of nearly 400 more youth protection workers.
Mental health initiatives: $260 million
Domestic violence: $181 million, which in part will improve access to emergency housing
Parents of adults with disabilities: $126 million
Housing: $150 million of five years for the AccesLogis Quebec program to build housing units
Improving senior care:
The government is budgeting $624 million over five years for
- 900 additional beds in long-term care facilities, doubling the number announced last year.
- hiring more home care service providers.
- $18.8 million over five years to the Secretariat for relations with English-speaking Quebecers.
- $6.1 million over five years will go to organizations and educational institutions benefiting English-speaking communities.
- $4.7 million for senior wellness centres to continue activities at nearly 40 existing centres and establish 25 more by 2022-2023.
-$7 million for an employment strategy for English-speaking Quebecers.
The government is allocating $50 million in additional funding this year to develop, promote and respect the French language, including initiatives to strengthen the role of groups responsible for applying the Charter of the French language, particularly within the business sector.
The tax credit for caregivers is doubled and simplified with assistance of up to $2,500 per year. Some 30,000 more people will now be eligible.
The government is investing $490 million more in improving primary care services, access to specialized medicine and innovative cancer treatments, including free CAR-T therapy.
The government is spending $450 million over the next five years as it adds 6,000 subsidized childcare spaces by creating 2,500 new spaces and converting 3,500 nonsubsidized spaces to subsidized.
$219 million over five years in Indigenous communities for education, raising awareness in the public service sector of issues the Indigenous community faces and the well-being of Indigenous women and girls.