On Thursday, the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) government announced it is facing a historic $15 billion deficit because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the next three years, it will pump billions into health care and the economy, but some critics are saying it’s not enough.
In the next three years, the government plans to invest close to $2 billion to restart the economy.
The official opposition is criticizing the government for concentrating too much on being able to balance the budget in five years. They said it is being too prudent in its investments.
“If you’re a health-care worker, there’s nothing for you in this mini-budget. If you’re somebody who lives in a rural region and is hoping for better internet access, there’s nothing for you in this budget,” said Liberal MNA André Fortin.
“If you’re a small business owner, there’s nothing for you in this budget, and you’re certainly no further ahead in saving your business.”
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) was hoping Quebec would extend financial aid to all suffering businesses, even those not currently in a red zone. They also asked for longer time periods to pay back loans.
“If you want to have an economic recovery, you have to help businesses to be there for the economic recovery,” said CFIB Quebec president, François Vincent.
Since March, the province has pumped $5 billion into the health-care system, but the FSSS-CSN union said the health network is “about to crack.” After years of austerity, it says massive investments need to be made to retain personnel.
“We’re going to hit a wall and it won’t be long. Next year we’ll be talking and the pandemic will be over and we’ll be saying ‘no one wants to work in the health and social services network,'” said FSSS-CSN Jeff Begley.
However, the finance minister said this economic update is not the end-all-be-all of the government’s health and economic recovery plans.
“If we need more, we’ll do more at the budget,” said Finance Minister Eric Girard.
He said if needed, there will be more investments in the 2021-2022 budget he tables in March.
“It will be very important that come next spring our growth really accelerate and compensate for the difficult times that we are facing right now,” he said.