The first budget from Justin Trudeau's government forecasts big deficits over the next five years and beyond to finance a new tax-free monthly child benefit, more money for First Nations, infrastructure spending and extended employment insurance benefits to hard-hit regions.
- Federal budget 2016: Liberals push deficit to spend big on families, cities
- Federal budget 2016: Highlights of Bill Morneau's first budget
Hours after the budget was tabled in Ottawa, Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said that the budget has good news for Quebec's middle-class families, but not much in terms of infrastructure investments.
Here's what the budget includes – and lacks – for Quebec:
1. Public Transit
- A total of $3.4 billion for the whole country for transit over three years. A lot of the money promised during the election campaign won't come until after the next federal election in 2019.
- Montreal's Metro: The budget says The Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, which includes $925 million for Quebec, will make "long overdue investments" in public transit systems so that Canadians "can get to work on time, and back home at the end of a long day." It's not yet clear which projects will get funding, but Transport Minister Marc Garneau says decisions will be made in consultation with the province and municipalities.
- Via Rail: $3.3 million over three years to Transport Canada to support an in-depth assessment of VIA Rail's high-frequency rail proposal on the Windsor-Quebec corridor.
"We welcome those investments very [much]," said Philippe Cousineau-Morin, co-ordinator at Transport 2000 Quebec. "It will help urban citizens to improve their mobility."
Sam Hamad, Quebec's treasury board president and MNA for the Quebec City riding of Louis-Hébert, said many of his constituents will be happy with the news about money going toward the train's Windsor-Quebec corridor.
"Quebec businesspeople asked for this," said Hamad. "It's very good news."
2. Clean Technologies
There is $3.1 million set aside for Sigma Devtech Inc., a Quebec company which plans to use technology that produces a type of biodegradable plastic from pulp mill waste as a way to counter the problem of mountains of plastic that end up in landfills. The money comes from the Sustainable Development Tech Fund.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said he welcomes the budget. "This is clearly about investing in people, respecting municipalities, that we have to take care of climate change... Frankly we are very, very positive about what we've been hearing and it is a good budget."
3. Families with young children
Ottawa is eliminating income splitting for couples with children as well as phasing out the children's fitness tax credit and the children's arts tax credit. Instead, a new tax-free Canada Child Benefit will be paid out. Families with a total income over $150,000 will end up with less money, but others will see a gain.
"This is a budget that is very positive for Quebec families and families with children," said Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao.
4. Upgrading water distribution systems
There's $17.1 million to upgrade four drinking water treatment and distribution systems in Sherbrooke, Que. This investment, which comes from the Gas Tax Fund, will provide Sherbrooke residents with high-quality drinking water, the budget says.
5. Help for homes with pyrrhotite
Some homeowners in Quebec have had serious and costly problems due to the presence of pyrrhotite, a mineral that can lead to cracks in concrete structures. The federal budget allocates up to $30 million over three years, starting in 2016–2017, to help affected homeowners.
The government will invest $675 million over the next five years "to modernize and revitalize CBC/Radio Canada in the digital era," starting with $75 million this coming fiscal year and $150 million in each of the following four years.
"This is great news for CBC/Radio-Canada, and for Canadians who support public broadcasting," said Hubert T. Lacroix, CBC's president and CEO. "This reinvestment is a vote of confidence by government and by Canadians in our programs, our people, and our vision for the future."
7. Supporting the Reserve Force
The budget has $67.4 million set aside for projects to repair and maintain Reserve Force armouries, including armouries in Quebec.
8. Safer airports/transportation
Ottawa will chip in:
- $23 million to upgrade fire safety capability and replace structures such as terminal buildings and hangars at six rural and remote airports, including Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Que.
- $5.4 million to the Motor Vehicle Test Centre in Blainville, Que. to enhance testing capacity at the facility. "Through these actions, the Government is taking concrete steps to ensure Canada's transportation system remains safe," the budget says.
What's not in the budget for Quebec?
The budget makes no mention of offering any support for cash-strapped Bombardier. Quebec has already chipped in more than $1 billion.
"We remain convinced that there will be government aid for Bombardier," said Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao.
"It's clear that the federal government is leaning towards a significant investment in Bombardier and specifically in the CSeries. So we will remain positive on that and we will continue to press our point with the federal government that the CSeries deserves substantial investment...In my opinion, it's a matter of time."
In February, Montreal-based Bombardier said it would cut its workforce by up to 7,000 people even as the company finally signed a deal to sell its CSeries jets to Air Canada.
LRT, extending Metro's Blue line
Montreal was looking for money for a light rail train across the new Champlain Bridge as well as some cash to extend the Montreal Metro's Blue Line. There was no mention of this in the budget.
"There is nothing today that has moved forward from what we knew yesterday," said Leitao.
"We hear the emphasis from the federal government that this is phase one – that's fine, that's great – but for [Montreal Metro's] Blue Line or the rapid bus system [in Quebec City], there are no details."