The ambitious budget is raining money on health care, education, small businesses and more.
The Quebec Liberals are handing out goodies to almost every sector – though many of these big promises are longterm investments.
“Our budget is focused on improving the quality of life of Quebecers,” said Leitao.
The minister scoffed when he was asked if his budget was an “electoral budget.”
“We would never do that. I would never do that,” he argued.
WATCH BELOW: Quebec budget 2018: Carlos Leitao explains all the spending
“We have three years of cuts followed by one year of candy followed by an election.”
The government credits former conservative budgets for its ability to maintain a balanced budget this year (at $76.9 billion; an increase of $16 billion over the next five years), while increasing investments in infrastructure, including social services, roads and public transit.
“It’s a necessity to present balanced budgets because our debt is still very high,” Leitao explained.
Health and education
Quebec will be investing $1.6 billion more in education (a spending growth of five per cent this year and 3.5 per cent in the coming years).
It will also give $3.6 billion more to health (an annual increase of four per cent) for the next five years.
The government says it plans to “support our young people” by “making our schools more attractive.”
Pre-school, elementary and high schools are expected to receive $9.5 billion in infrastructure money, while higher education has been promised $6.7 billion.
The increase will bring the overall spending in education to a total of $18.9 billion.
Health care and social services are a big priority in this budget, with spending set to grow by 4.6 per cent this year, bringing the total budget to $38.5 billion.
This year, the government promises to spend $381 million to improve access to health care, but by 2022, that number is expected to jump to over $1 billion.
“It’s an electoral year and that comes through the budget,” said Bernard Beaudreau, Laval University economics professor.
“Overall, I think it’s a good budget. There are measures in the budget to keep things going.”
The government plans to improve both the access and quality of health care by:
- Improving access to home and intermediate care,
- Enhancing assistance for seniors,
- Adding specialized nurse practitioners,
- Improving frontline and specialized care in the regions,
- Improving health prevention.
Quality of life
There will be $24.5 million of Quebec’s economic plan over the next five years given to the Department for Relations with English-speaking Quebecers to ensure the “vitality” of the province’s anglophone community.
From 2018 to 2019, $2 million will be dedicated to this, with the amount doubling should the Liberals still be in power the next year.
This comes after Leitao met with several anglophone group at the beginning of March as part of the consultation process for the budget, including Youth Employment Services (YES), the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) and the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN).
At the time, the QCGN insisted there was a need to establish committees to serve Montreal’s English hospitals and create organizations to act as access points for the English-speaking community.
Young Quebec families have been promised tax credits of more than $800 million over the next five years, with the government insisting it believes in increasing the amount of quality time families get to spend together.
WATCH BELOW: The Quebec government made several promises ahead of unveiling the 2018 budget.
This includes increasing the limit on expenses for refundable tax credits and childcare costs, as well as introducing a non-refundable tax credit for first-time home buyers and money for family members who take care of the elderly.
The government promises $96 million to promote gender equality – something the government insists is a “deeply held value of Quebec society,” as well as combat domestic and sexual violence.
However, according to the budget, $25 million was given to sexual violence last year and there are no new funds expected this year or the years to come.
WATCH: Global’s Elysia Bryan-Baynes gathers reaction to Quebec’s 2018 pre-election budget.
Travelling in Quebec
Taxi drivers are getting a huge handout in this budget.
The government is offering $250 million to taxi owners to compensate them for the “loss in value of their permits.”
“The government wants to continue the discussions with the industry,” said Leitao.
WATCH BELOW: Taxi drama
Public transit is a priority this budget, according to the government.
Investments totaling $13 billion over the next five years out of the infrastructure plan will go to Montreal’s Réseau Express Métropolitain ($6.3 billion), the extension of the Montreal Metro’s blue line ($3.9 billion) and the electric network in Quebec City ($3.3 billion).
READ MORE: What will be in the 2018 Quebec budget?
“The REM will bring Quebec into the 21st century,” Leitao said.
“These three projects will change commuting in the Montreal and Quebec areas profoundly…they will contribute directly to Quebec’s prosperity.”
The province is also promising $250 million to maintain and fix roads, including the reconstruction of the Île-aux-Tourtes Bridge and extending the A-19 in Laval.
“It’s just a matter of figuring out the final negotiations,” explained Transport Minister André Fortin.
The government is hoping to ease the tax burden on small and medium businesses, giving them $2.2 billion over the next five years.
“I think small business owners will be relieved,” said Martine Hebert, with the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses.
Quebec will also follow through with its vow to force online companies to collect provincial sales tax.
“We have to consider that it will never again be the same environment,” lamented Yves-Thomas Dorval, with the Quebec Employer’s Council.
Reducing the debt
As promised, Quebec plans to tackle its debt, paying $2 billion per year over the next five years through the Generations Fund, a special fund created in 2006 to manage the province’s burgeoning debt load.
The province insists it will save $1 billion in interest payments.
The plan to repay the debt is something the government spoke about previously to the budget.
Over the last few weeks, the Liberals biggest political opponents, the CAQ, claimed the debt payment was actually one of their ideas.
Quebec currently has a debt of more than $200 billion.