Transportation, health top list of budget demands in Outaouais
Western Quebec looking for money for LRT, new hospital in Thursday's budget
Health care and transportation are top of mind in the Outaouais as Quebec's finance minister prepares to table his government's first-ever budget Thursday.
By far the biggest project on the region's to-do list is the city of Gatineau's plan to build a 26-kilometre LRT network connecting Aylmer to downtown Gatineau, including two interprovincial rail links across the Ottawa River.
According to the City of Gatineau, the system would cost $2.1 billion to build, with each level of government covering one-third of the cost. The proposed launch date is 2028.
Liberal MLA for Pontiac and former transportation minister André Fortin told Radio-Canada he believes there's no reason for the provincial government to back out of the project now, since the trains would serve residents whose need for rapid public transit is only increasing.
The governing Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) party said during the provincial election it would fund the project.
Highway 50 widening unlikely
The budget likely won't contain good news for motorists hoping Highway 50 will finally be widened.
The CAQ minister responsible for the Outaouais, Mathieu Lacombe, recently told reporters during a news conference that his government has no intention to fund the widening for now.
Hopes for new hospital
Politicians and health officials in the Outaouais will also be paying close attention for details of a new hospital promised for the region.
During the campaign, the CAQ pledged to build a new hospital in the Outaouais by 2024.
Fortin said the government missed an opportunity during its economic update in November to secure funding to build the new facility.
However Quebec's health mister, Danielle McCann, did ask the Centre intégré de santé et services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSS) to formally define its needs for new services in the region. The CISSS has until June 30 to respond.
Labour shortages are another big issue plaguing health services in western Quebec, with the health lobby group Santé Outaouais 2020 claiming the region lacks roughly 1,300 employees, especially nurses.
The Maniwaki Hospital has on several occasions been forced to postpone surgeries due to a lack of surgeons and specialists.
Money to spend
The CAQ government has plenty of cash to work with as it tables its first budget.
The province is armed with a surplus estimated at somewhere between $1.65 billion and $4.6 billion, depending on whose accounting method you trust.
Either way, higher-than-expected revenues provide the CAQ government with leeway to follow through on some of its pricier campaign promises.
With files from Antoine Trépanier