Quebec to inject $135M more into health and education following surplus
Opposition parties criticize government cuts, say reinvestment doesn't do enough for families
Premier Philippe Couillard's government will inject an additional $135 million immediately into health care and education thanks to a $2.2 billion surplus from the last fiscal year.
"Now that the house is in order we are able to make choices about the priorities of Quebecers," Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said during his fall economic update.
Leitao said the government will use the money to abolish the health tax on January 1, 2017, a year earlier than expected. This will save Quebecers $80 to $600 a year, depending on their annual income.
For health, the province will spend $100 million extra this year on home care and long-term care facilities. The $35 million in additional spending in education will focus on student success, special needs students and training for new immigrants.
The province will also spend an additional $100 million on regional economic development projects and regional tourism.
The $2.2-billion surplus announced by Leitao today is higher than the $1.8-billion surplus projected in July.
Most of the extra funds come from a stronger economy and one-off savings: more revenue from individual and corporate taxes, savings due to public service strikes and money left unspent in the contingency fund, according to Ministry of Finance officials.
For 2017-2018, the province projects it will spend the rest of the surplus as follows:
- Health and social services: $300 million
- Education: $110 million
- Regional economic development: $100 million
- Infrastructure: $400 million
As for the debt, Leitao said will be reduced by $610 million, the first time a reduction has been recorded since the late 1950s. It now stands at $203.3 billion.
Opposition parties react
Parti Québécois finance critic Nicolas Marceau spoke to reporters Tuesday, saying that this reinvestment doesn't make up for the Liberal government's austerity cuts.
"The damages that were caused are not going to be repaired suddenly because they increase very marginally the expenditures in health or in education," said Marceau.
"The amount of cuts that we were facing amounted to billions, one billion approximately in health care, one billion approximately in education, and the minimal reinvestment that was announced today was not sufficient to ensure that those that were left behind will be saved, that they will get back the services they need."
The head of the Coalition Avenir Québec, François Legault, responded to the economic update by questioning the benefit for families.
"The budget surplus was accumulated on the backs of Quebec families, but the budget surplus will not benefit families," he wrote in a news release.
"After having increased taxes by an average of $1,300 over two-and-a-half years, he returns them $140. It's laughable."
The next provincial election will be held in 2018.