DÉPART Program

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Tashi Farmilo
Local Journalism Initiative

QUEBEC – The Quebec government has launched a new initiative, the DÉPART program, with a $75 million budget aimed at revitalizing 25 MRCs in the province, including the MRC Pontiac and La Vallée-de-la-Gatineau. Mathieu Lacombe, Minister of Culture and Communications, Minister responsible for Youth and the Outaouais region, along with Robert Bussière, Member of Parliament for Gatineau, made the announcement.

The DÉPART program, administered by Investissement Québec, targets small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and collective enterprises in regions identified as needing economic stimulation. These areas include MRCs in the last quintile of the economic vitality index by the Institut de la statistique du Québec, the MRCs of the Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine region, the MRC des Appalaches and du Granit, and nearby Indigenous communities.

The program aims to facilitate financing for businesses in these territories, taking over from the objectives of the now-expired Regional Initiatives Assistance Fund (FAIR) and four economic diversification funds. In defining SMEs, the program focuses on for-profit businesses with 250 employees or fewer, legally established under the laws of the Quebec or Canadian government. These enterprises must be registered in Quebec, have an establishment in the province, and be actively engaged in business activities.

“With this new program, the government wants to facilitate access to financing for businesses located in the targeted territories, as the various funds did before, but with a broader scope. SMEs are vital for our communities. With the DÉPART program, we offer them the means to achieve their ambitions,” said Minister Lacombe.

The program’s funding allocation doesn’t specify an envelope for each MRC. Instead, a committee composed of members from the Ministry and Investissement Québec will make decisions based on the quality of the projects and strive for interregional equity in the distribution of available budgetary credits.

Applications for financial aid under DÉPART will undergo a comprehensive analysis, evaluating the project’s relevance, governance quality, community support, and potential impacts. The financial aid is structured as a non-repayable contribution.

To assess the effectiveness of the DÉPART program, the Ministry will follow governmental standards for program evaluation; measuring operational outcomes, program effects, and socio-economic impacts. The program’s influence on the economic vitality index of the MRCs will be measurable following the publication of the 2024 indices by the Institut de la statistique du Québec, expected by the end of 2025.

Businesses can apply for funding through the regional offices of Investissement Québec, with details on the application process and eligible sectors and projects available on their website. The program is open to legally constituted SMEs and collective enterprises, including cooperatives and non-profits engaged in predominantly commercial activities in Quebec.