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Finance minister says Quebec in good financial shape in face of COVID-19

Click to play video: 'Quebec’s finance minister to table second budget on Tuesday' Quebec’s finance minister to table second budget on Tuesday
WATCH: Eric Girard is confident the province is in strong financial shape ahead of tabling the government's second provincial budget on Tuesday. As Global's Raquel Fletcher reports, even in the face of COVID-19, the finance minister said 2020 is looking good. – Mar 9, 2020

There might be storms to weather, but Finance Minister Eric Girard said that Quebec is in strong financial shape despite COVID-19.

“Quebec’s economy has extremely strong fundamentals, public finances are sound, and this puts us in a very good position,” Girard said.

“The Quebec economy is going to be resilient.”

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During an annual pre-budget photo op in Quebec City on Monday, Girard laced up his hockey skates.

It’s tradition that the finance minister gets new shoes the day before tabling the budget, but this year, Girard replaced his hockey blades with new ones from a Quebec-based company.

Girard said supporting Quebec businesses is top of mind amid the spread of COVID-19, which is threatening the global economy. However, Girard said he is not re-working the budget that was drafted three weeks ago and has already been printed.

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“The budget is not made for cyclical adjustments that are happening overnight. The budget is a structural plan to improve competitiveness of businesses to help the economy reach its full potential to invest in services, health care, education. We’re doing that,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Wall Street stock markets plunge, resume after trading halt amid COVID-19 outbreak,' Wall Street stock markets plunge, resume after trading halt amid COVID-19 outbreak,
Wall Street stock markets plunge, resume after trading halt amid COVID-19 outbreak, – Mar 9, 2020

The opposition, however, accused Girard and the government of being imprudent.

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“We think what Quebec could and should do tomorrow in its budget is to announce the creation of a $1 billion provision for uncertainty,” said Liberal MNA Carlos Leitao.

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Girard said the government has a $12-billion dollar stabilization reserve. While that money isn’t readily available, it would allow the government to borrow more in case of an economic downfall.

But Leitao said the government should be prepared in case it needs cash fast.

Leitao gave an example: “If public health needs x millions of dollars to create special clinics, or special tests, or whatever they need, they should have all the funds they need.”

 

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