Next provincial budget to tackle Quebec's massive debt
Published Wednesday, March 14, 2018 9:51AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 14, 2018 7:41PM EDT
Finance Minister Carlos Leitao will deliver the next provincial budget on March 27, and he's going to tackle Quebec's debt.
Leitao and Premier Philippe Couillard said Wednesday they plan to use money from the government's long-term Generations Fund to reduce provincial debt by $10 billion over the next five years.
The Generations Fund was created in 2006 and sets aside money specifically to pay down Quebec's debt as quickly as possible. Its current assets total $13 billion.
Couillard said this will be a major boon for citizens as it will reduce the amount the province is paying in interest.
"The main factor that's going to be happening after we start making these payments is that over five years we will save $1 billion worth of interest payments. So instead of sending that money to bankers in New York City or London or elsewhere, we're going to keep it for our hospitals and our schools," said Couillard.
Last year interest payments alone on the provincial debt were about $15 billion.
In recent years Quebec's government has managed to get its spending under control and balance the books.
After seven deficits in a row the budget was balanced in 2015-16 and has since posted surpluses, but Quebec still has the largest debt per person, and compared to its economy, of any province.
As of March 2017 the provincial finance ministry said the gross debt was $203 billion, or roughly 52 percent of Gross Domestic Product. That's about $25,000 per resident of Quebec.
Ontario's debt is larger, about $312 billion, but it has more people and its economy is larger.
In recent weeks and months Leitao has met with multiple interest groups, including the anglophone rights organization the Quebec Community Groups Network, in preparation for the fiscal document.
Among the concerns raised were devoting sufficient funds to the Anglophone Secretariat, and increasing funds for health care.
Leitao and Couillard said Wednesday that the healthcare budget will be increased by 4.5 percent, meaning Quebec will spend more than $38 billion on healthcare.
The province has also pledged to subsidize 5,800 more daycare spaces.
Money will also likely be devoted to the long-awaited expansion of the Blue Line of Montreal's metro system.