Quebec will invest billions to fight homelessness and boost food aid, but people shouldn’t expect another cheque to help offset the high costs of living.
Finance Minister Eric Girard outlined his economic update Tuesday, saying the government is taking “targeted action” to address housing and other issues. He says the province is maintaining its plan to return to a balanced budget in the 2027-28 fiscal year.
The government says it earmarked nearly $4.3 billion over five years, including $1.8 billion for better access to housing and to speed up the construction of 8,000 new affordable housing units. The federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund will finance $900 million, while the Quebec Infrastructure Plan will fund the other half.
Meanwhile, $145 million will go to food banks and fighting homelessness. In October, the Food Banks of Quebec said it was facing a “historic situation” as the number of people receiving help soared by 30 per cent in just a year.
Quebec has also set aside $961 million for climate change initiatives. It will be used to help communities adapt to climate change, rebuild forested areas decimated by this summer’s wildfires and maintain public transit services. Last week, the province finally offered to cover 70 per cent of combined deficits for public transit agencies in 2024 as operators deal with rising costs and lower ridership numbers since the pandemic.
In a bid to attract more workers, the government will also spend $329 million on training initiatives in the construction, health and social services fields.
Girard says he is also increasing some tax credits and boosting aid payments by more than the inflation rate in order to help residents cope with rising prices. He says government benefits, such as the family allowance, will rise by 5.08 per cent starting Jan. 1, 2024 — above the September year-over-year inflation rate of 4.8 per cent.
Unlike the previous economic update, Girard’s latest update doesn’t include direct payments to Quebecers in order to offset the effects of inflation. In 2022, the government twice gave out lump sums to adults earning $100,000 or less.
The update comes one day after hundreds of thousands of public sector workers walked off the job for several hours, the first in an escalating series of strike actions announced after unions representing government workers rejected the province’s most recent contract offer.
— with files from Global’s Franca Mignacca, Tim Sargeant and The Canadian Press