Good news for middle-class families in Quebec's mini-budget

Quebec Premier Francois Legault receives a copy of the budget speech from Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard, left, Thursday, March 21, 2019 at the premier's office in Quebec City. Girard will table his first budget since the election of a CAQ government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

QUEBEC -- The Quebec government is ready to put some money back into the pockets of middle-class families, thanks to a $4.8-billion surplus.

Finance Minister Eric Girard offered an economic update Thursday afternoon, presenting a mini-budget that shows the CAQ's plan to give $8 billion back to Quebecers by 2023-2024, which is $3.3 billion more than planned.

"Quebec's economy is doing remarkably well," Girard said on Thursday. "When you look at the last four years, the (total) surpluses have been in the order of $12 billion, and all that was put towards reducing Quebec's debt burden."

Some highlights:

Daycare fees

The CAQ will return daycare fees to a singular rate of $8.25 per day, and roll back the sliding scale introduced by the Liberals for higher-income parents. The Legault government began this initiative in the previous budget; the first year of no additional charges was set to begin in 2022, but is now retroactive as of Jan. 1, 2019. The new plan saves some 140,000 families an average of $1,100.

Hospital parking

As of this spring, the first two hours of parking at Quebec hospitals, health and social services outlets (CLSCs), long-term care facilities (CHSLDs) will be free, and daily rates will be set at $7-$10 depending on the region. That program is expected to cost the government:

  • $25 million in 2019-2020
  • $120 million in 2020-2021
  • $132 million in 2021-2022
  • $145 million in 2023-2024

Family allowance

In 2020, all families who qualify will receive the same family allowance for each child, regardless of how many children they have. It will total a maximum of $2,515 per child each year for families making under $49,842 and $36,256 for single parents. Family will receive a minimum of $1,000 per child per year, an amount given two years earlier than expected.

By comparison, in 2018, Quebec families received a maximum of $2,430 for a first child and $1,214 for each subsequent child. To qualify for the allowance, family income must be less than $125,592. The allowance will be paid on quarterly basis.

The change gives some 679,000 Quebec families back an average of $779 per year, as of January.

Jobs
As many as 80,000 jobs are expected to be created by the end of 2019. Quebec gained 96,400 jobs between December 2018 and September 2019. Quebec's overall employment rate is at 62 per cent, the highest rate since Statistics Canada started its Labour Force Survey in 1976. Because of a smaller pool of potential workers, the CAQ said there is likely to be pressure on the labour market and job gains in 2020 might be limited to 38,000. 


Other highlights

  • $625 more per month for the care of children with disabilities. This affects more than 3,000 families
  • Solidarity tax credit to some 40,000 social assistance recipients by June 2020
  • Extension of electricity discount programs


$1.4B surplus projected

The CAQ is projecting another surplus of $1.4 billion for 2019-2020, fuelled by a 2.4 per cent increase in GDP in 2019 and a projected 1.8 per cent increase in 2020. The CAQ intends to use that money to fight climate change, deal with a “potential economic slowdown” and reduce the debt.

It estimates it will reduce the debt to 45 per cent of the gross domestic product six years ahead of schedule.

The total additional spending this fiscal year, above what was budgeted last spring, is $857 million.


Liberals react: Budget only helps young families

Liberal finance critic Carlos Leitao criticized the mini-budget by saying there's little in it for childless couples or the elderly.

He also noted the government plans on increasing electricity rates to match inflation.

"The government is giving people higher allowances, but making everyone pay more in electricity costs," he said.

 

Update on Québec's Economic and Financial Situation - Fall 2019 - In brief

- With files from CTV Montreal's Kelly Greig in Quebec City and Giuseppe Valiante of The Canadian Press