QUEBEC — The first Coalition Avenir Quebec budget is a free-spending plan that still balances the books, thanks to what the finance minister acknowledges was a sound financial situation inherited from his predecessor.
Finance Minister Eric Girard says his budget will leave more money in Quebecers’ pockets and pour funding into the key portfolios of education and health. Both will see spending increase in 2019-20 by more than five per cent.
Today’s budget takes the first steps toward fulfilling a number of promises that propelled the Coalition party to victory over the incumbent Liberals last Oct. 1.
The government will begin phasing out a surcharge on daycare fees introduced by the Liberals and it will create 250 classes in September 2019 as part of a plan for universal pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds. The budget says the pre-kindergarten program will cost $1 billion over five years.
The budget allocates $200 million in fiscal 2019-20 toward reducing school tax rates, part of a three-year initiative to establish a single rate across the province.
The budget projects a $2.5 billion surplus on total revenue of $115.6 billion. The surplus will go to a fund aimed at lowering the province’s debt.
Gross debt is estimated at $200.8 billion, which represents 46.1 per cent of gross domestic product, continuing a downward trend from a peak of 54.3 per cent five years ago.
Economic growth is forecast at 1.8 per cent in 2019 and 1.5 per cent in 2020.
The Canadian Press