Quebec finance minister discusses deficit, economic growth ahead of Tuesday’s budget

Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard puts on a pair of running shoes as he responds to reporters questions on the eve of a budget speech, Monday, March 21, 2022 in front of the finance ministry in Quebec City. Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

As per tradition, Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard unveiled a pair of brand new shoes on Monday in anticipation of Tuesday’s 2022-2023 provincial budget.

Girard said he picked up the new runners at his favourite running boutique on Montreal’s St-Denis Street.

The minister said he was told the shoes were built for speed and geared for high performance. He likened them to Quebec’s economy, which he said bounced back in 2021 after being hit hard by the pandemic in 2020.

“The rebound was exceptional,” Girard said, announcing that the province’s structural or long-term deficit would be halved.

“We had estimated that the structural deficit was in the magnitude of $6 billion to $7 billion but it will be stated tomorrow at less than $3 billion,” he said.

Read more: Quebec economic update includes direct payments to offset inflation as deficit drops

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Girard added that while growth had been estimated at 6.5 per cent, it would be revised lower on Tuesday.

Despite exceptional growth, Girard will not be presenting a balanced budget. With the outbreak of war in Ukraine and rising inflation and result uncertainty, Girard said he would be giving himself some room to maneuver.

While giving few details, Girard once again reiterated the government’s intention to help Quebecers with the increased cost of living as was done during the fall economic update with direct payments for low- and middle-income individuals.

Read more: Quebec premier says he’ll address soaring fuel prices, inflation in upcoming budget

All single Quebecers whose income was less than $50,000 received a $275 payment, and couples whose combined income was less than $55,912 would get a total of $400. The one-time payments to more than three million people would cost $739 million, Girard said at the time.

This time around, however, payments will not target a specific clientele but the general population.

Despite it being an election year in Quebec, Girard said his fourth budget wasn’t an election budget but rather a fiscally prudent one focused on the long term.

“I am looking to maximize what we can do with our means and that’s to benefit all Quebecers,” he said.

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“I think people will be pleasantly surprised that we are prudent, that we’re dealing with what are the immediate needs and also funding … the principal mission of the state, health care, education, economy and the environment so we’re providing for the long term.”

— with files from The Canadian Press

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