Quebec budget boasts $2 billion surplus

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Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC &

Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC &
PONTIAC – Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao tabled the Couillard government’s 2016-2017 budget, March 17. The $102.5 billion budget is the third for the Couillard government and the second to post a surplus. The government plans on investing this year’s $2 billion surplus in the Generations Fund that was created in 2006 to reduce the province’s public debt.
“For too long, our debt just kept piling up to the point where we pay about $30 million per day in interest, money that could be invested elsewhere. The budget enables Quebecers to confidently embrace the future, because, through sound management of public finances, we can reinvest according to our needs and priorities, such as education, to assist businesses through the changing economy and to ease the tax burden on Quebecers,” said Pontiac MNA Andre Fortin,
indicating the province is now on a stronger financial footing. 
Overall, the budget included no increases in income taxes, a break for parents with more than one child using subsidized daycare, a 2% increase in health spending, and 3% more for education. Two billion dollars will be invested in repairs to the province’s road network in 2016-2017.
Health
By the end of 2017, the health tax, introduced in 2010, will be eliminated; the tax will drop this year from $100 to $50 for those earning under $41,265 and to $75 for those earning up to $134,000.
The increase in health spending, which represents 38% of all government spending, will go mainly to increases in doctor’s compensation and other salary increases previously negotiated as well as to in-home services, services for those with autism, and increased access to surgery and drug treatment centres. “It’s cheaper for people to be cared for at home so we are investing $60 million per year for in-home care services to keep people in their homes longer, which also improves the patient’s quality of life,” explained Fortin.
The goals of the massive reform of the healthcare sector are still to be
realized, but according to Fortin, the province is on the right path. “It’s an ongoing process moving towards offering better, more accessible services across the region, as well as reduced wait times for surgeries, etc,” he told the Journal.
Education
Over the next three years, $1.2 billion more will be spent in education and an additional $700 million will be invested over the next three years in upgrading and renovating aging school infrastructure. Government figures estimate that about one third of all schools, including colleges, are in need of major repairs. “These investments will motivate our children to study and succeed and will contribute to the prosperity of Québec and the entire Pontiac, which is why we made education a priority in this budget,” said Fortin.
Child care
For parents with more than one child in the subsidized daycare system, the budget includes a 50% tax break on the contribution required for the second child since the government moved to index childcare subsidies based on income last year.  
According to Fortin, the measures that will benefit the Pontiac most are
investments in forestry, by improving forestry roads and offering incentives
for private forestry owners to make their wood more accessible to forestry groups like the Groupement Forestier, the reduced health tax, and a series of reduced small business tax rates such as payroll taxes.