Quebec projects a $15-billion budgetary deficit for 2020-2021

CAQ gov’t adds $1.8 billion to support Quebecers and restart the economy

Updating Quebec’s financial picture last week, Finance Minister Éric Girard said the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t changed the CAQ government’s goal of reversing Quebec’s historical tendency to underperform in Canada – even though a fifth of the country’s population lives here.

$15 billion deficit seen

“We must collectively tackle one of the worst crises in Quebec’s history,” said Girard. “The government will take every necessary step to strengthen our health care system and help hard-hit citizens and businesses so that they can get through this pandemic and recover quickly.”

I’m focused on what we need to do: we need to fight the epidemic, we need to support Quebecers and businesses

Quebec Finance Minister Éric Girard

Girard outlined an additional $1.8 billion in measures over three years to bolster the economy. At the same time, his update included a projected $15-billion deficit for 2020-2021.

Focused on the economy

Despite the staggering increase in allotments since the CAQ government’s last full budget last March, Girard said he remains “very focused” on the task of stabilizing the economy, while working on longer-term economic growth.

“Our number one task is to control the epidemic,” he said. “That’s why we’ve allocated $5 billion to health care, and if they need more we will give it. So, I’m focused on what we need to do: we need to fight the epidemic, we need to support Quebecers and businesses.”

The announced initiatives raised to nearly $13 billion the total amount invested by the CAQ government since the onset of the pandemic in March to deal with the historic economic and public health crisis Quebec is currently going through.

Mental health funding

In addition to the actions taken since March 2020, the government announced an additional $287 million to support Quebecers and the economy. This includes $100 million to address mental health problems by providing better access to support services, among other things.

As well, the government said new initiatives totalling $117 million will help support vulnerable population groups, provide safe subsidized childcare services, and ensure that educational settings are better adapted to the current context and to distance learning.

An additional $60 million in support for the tourism sector was also announced, in particular to offset the impact of the pandemic on tourist accommodations.

New actions for recovery

While the majority of investments to date were allocated for managing the COVID-19 crisis, the government presented new actions totalling $1.5 billion over three years to accelerate economic recovery. Of this amount, $459 million will go to initiatives to get Quebecers back into the labour force by focusing on requalification, training and successful graduation.

The government said it is also providing $477 million to drive economic growth by accelerating business investment projects, fostering innovative initiatives and supporting regional economic development. Another $300 million will also be used to enhance the Plan for a Green Economy and $247 million will be spent on promoting Quebec production and buying locally.

No balanced budget for five years

A $15-billion budgetary deficit is projected for 2020-2021, including provisions, declining budgetary deficits of $8.3 billion in 2021-2022, and $7.0 billion in 2022-2023 are currently forecast. According to the government, the pandemic and the measures put in place since March have generated these deficits.

Girard maintained that the province will return to a balanced budget within five years without cutting services or raising taxes. Additional details on the way forward are to be presented in the next regular budget in March 2021.

Highlights from Finance Minister Girard’s update

  • Initiatives totalling $1.8 billion since June include:
  • $287 million to support Quebecers and the economy;
  • $459 million to help Quebecers back into the labour market;
  • $477 million to drive economic growth;
  • $300 million more to ensure a greener recovery;
  • $247 million to promote Quebec production and buying locally.