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Quebec to invest in justice, health after budget surplus

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WATCH ABOVE: Quebec has just announced big investments in its justice and health departments. As Global's Raquel Fletcher reports, this follows an unexpected economic surplus revealed in the province’s October economic update.

There are just under three weeks until the holidays and Quebec’s Liberal government has announced two big investments in the province’s justice and health departments.

The government is providing more money to hire more judges and prosecutors and $100 million to reduce emergency room wait times, but the opposition argues this is not Christmas come early.

READ MORE: Quebec politicians disappointed with federal budget

Judges in Quebec had been sounding the alarm for years after several big cases were abandoned without going to trial due to unnecessary court delays.

Wednesday, Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée announced a plan to fix the problem.

“It’s not just to say, well we need resources and Christmas is coming, let’s add whatever resource we can think of, that’s not the way we work,” Vallée said.

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The department is investing $175 million over four years, mostly to hire more judges and prosecutors.

Vallée said the Crown will be able to handle 10,000 more cases – but almost 300 still remain at risk of being tossed out.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Gaétan Barrette revealed a $100 million yearly commitment to maintain 2,100 new beds in long-term care homes.

READ MORE: Quebec budget hopes to boost economy

Both announcements follow an unexpected budget surplus revealed in October’s economic update where the government pledged to reinvest $300 million into public services.

The opposition has been criticizing the government’s surplus, saying it was earned only by raising taxes.

“We’ll take it, but we won’t be fooled into thinking it’s Santa Claus coming with brand new gifts,” said Parti Québécois (PQ) leader Jean-François Lisée.

“It’s just part of the gifts they took last Christmas and they’re bringing it back now.”

The health minister responded to Lisée’s comments: “We had to balance the budget in order to pay less on debt and when we pay less on debt we have additional money to invest.”

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READ MORE: 5 things you need to know about Quebec’s 2016-17 budget

Barrette continued, saying he was confident these new long-term care beds will fix a systemic problem by creating places for people in hospitals – and that will reduce wait times.

He said, in the end the opposition will have nothing to criticize and the public will see results.