QUEBEC – There were winners and losers on Thursday as Quebec’s Parti Quebecois government presented its latest provincial budget in Quebec City.
In addition to the $34.2 billion for infrastructure by 2023, the government has reinstated the annual $25 million payment to Montreal. The city also benefits from monies earmarked for culture: the 375th anniversary celebrations will be supported with $125 million; funding for the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal will continue; the Musee d’art contemporain de Montreal will get $18.9 million for its expansion and Longueuil’s new cultural complex has been promised a cash injection of $20 million.
Winner: Volunteer firefighters
After recent disasters in Lac-Megantic and Isle-Verte, the government is investing $4 million in 2014-2015 for the training of part-time volunteer firefighters, so that municipalities and RCMs can respond effectively to disasters.
Winner: Social housing
The Quebec government wants to create more social housing. The budget has allocated $270 million for 3,250 social housing units, with 15 per cent earmarked for 500 units for the province’s homeless.
Winner: Homeless people
In addition to social housing, the government has earmarked $6 million for local services to help homeless people.
Winner: IT and technology
The Quebec government has earmarked $15 million for 2014-2015, and $40 million annually thereafter, to improve clinical and financial information on patient health care and results. It confirmed $150 million for a digital cultural strategy to help cultural organizations make a technological shift.
Winner: Oil development
The Quebec government hopes to reap 60 per cent of profits from oil development in Anticosti.
READ MORE: Five highlights from Quebec’s ‘beige’ budget
Parents have not been paying their fair share of daycare costs and so the government is increasing the cost of daycare from $7 a day to $9 by 2015. Although the hike has been estimated to cost two-child families up to $1000 more a year, it’s a decision welcomed by the Conseil du patronat du Québec, which represents the provinces largest employers.
Loser: School boards
By integrating school boards, the Quebec government hopes to save approximately $125 million, which it said it would reinvest in student services. Marceau said that the difference between per-student-costs of school boards with between 5000 and 9999 students and those with at least 35,000 students is over $1000. “We don’t count beans, we educate students,” said the Association for English School Boards in Quebec, whose school boards all have fewer than 35,000 students.
Loser: Public servants’ salaries
When it renegotiates its agreement with Quebec’s 430,000 public service employees in March 2015, the government said it wants to set “responsible remuneration with its employees” in order to reduce the $37.3 billion public service payroll costs, which represent 59 per cent of government spending.
Loser: Quebec doctors
Quebec’s finance minister has put the province’s doctors’ on alert: your salary hikes are costing us too much. To make up for the pay gap between Quebec physicians and physicians practising elsewhere in Canada, doctors’ salaries have risen on average by 67% since 2008, while public and parapublic sector employees’ salaries have grown by just 22 per cent during the same time period. The government wants to renegotiate how much Quebec doctors are paid.
Loser: Foreign students
After the Higher Education Summit, the government reviewed the tuition fees of foreign students (students who are not resident in Quebec). In 2011-2012, the cost of educating foreign students came to $573 million, of which 55 per cent was funded by the government. “It is important to emphasize the significant total cost of training them,” said the finance minister, “while ensuring that they continue to pay among the lowest tuition fees in North America.”
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