QUEBEC CITY -- Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard will table his budget for 2021-22 on Thursday.

Girard told reporters Wednesday that the budget will focus on economic recovery, health and education.

After a year of the COVID-19 pandemic that left a huge hole in public finances, Quebec's 2021-2022 budget will be "classic," Girard noted.

The minister agreed that returning to a balanced budget would be "difficult," but he did not reveal whether he would respect his party's campaign promise, setting a five-year plan to reach zero deficit in 2025-2026.

"The importance of returning to a balanced budget has not changed," the minister said. "We will also see if the compulsory contributions to the Generations Fund will be maintained."

An economic update in November projected a $15 billion deficit for this fiscal year, the province's first deficit since 2014.

That update also projected a deficit of $8.3 billion for the 2021-2022 fiscal year and $7 billion the following year.

Girard's 2020-2021 budget, tabled in March 2020, was balanced and included spending increases to help the province weather the then-early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2021.