Quebec posts third balanced budget in a row

QUEBEC — As governments across Canada fund services with billions in deficit spending, Quebec announced a third consecutive balanced budget Tuesday containing modest personal income-tax cuts.

Finance Minister Carlos Leitao’s penultimate budget before next year’s provincial election makes the elimination of a health tax retroactive to 2016 for Quebecers earning less than $134,000 a year.

It also hikes the first income tax bracket that is exempt from tax to $14,890 from $11,635.

In tabling the 2017-18 budget, Leitao called it prudent and said it reflects “a determination on our part to get it done.”

Recent budgets in other provinces as well as the federal budget are projecting deficits in the billions, but Leitao boasted that Quebec “has its house in order.”

Given Quebec’s overall indebtedness and infrastructure spending needs, he said the province had no choice but to balance the budget.

“Our economic plan is well-balanced, predictable, sustainable, prudent and it works,” he said. “We did what we said we were going to do.”

Health and education, the two departments that suffered most of the painful cuts as the government previously balanced its books, will receive billions in investment over the next several years.

Leitao said schools will get an additional $3.4 billion over five years, while the health sector, which accounts for almost 43 per cent of government spending, will also receive more money.

While mild in its criticism of Ottawa when compared with the rhetoric in budgets of previous Parti Quebecois governments, Leitao did call on the federal government to do more to help out with health funding.

”Despite the significant gains that were made, the federal government’s contribution remains insufficient,” he said.

”Ottawa must consider the pressures exerted by rising health expenditures. We are experiencing these pressures directly more than ever before and our government intends to continue making its requests to the federal government.”

He noted it is estimated that 26.3 per cent of Quebecers in 2036 will be 65 or over.

Leitao said Quebec will end the 2017-18 fiscal year with a $2.5-billion surplus, which will go entirely toward paying down an overall provincial debt that is projected to be $211 billion.

Quebec’s gross debt will increase by $3.9 billion in 2017-18.

Its debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to be 52 per cent in 2017-18, down from 52.7 per cent in 2016-17, but still the second-highest in the country after Newfoundland.

Leitao said Quebec’s economy grew by 1.7 per cent in 2016. He projected the same growth rate for 2017 and 1.6 per cent in 2018.

Quebecers will benefit from a rare reduction in personal income tax for the 2017 tax year. That will save each Quebecer $55.

Quebec is also making the elimination of the health tax retroactive to 2016, one year earlier than scheduled.

Therefore, all Quebecers making under $134,000 will save between $50 and $200 when filing their 2016 taxes. All Quebecers making more than $134,000 will pay their last health tax in 2017.

Transfers from the federal government will be $22 billion in 2017-18 on total provincial revenue of $106.3 billion.

PQ finance critic Nicolas Marceau criticized the budget and said the Liberals shouldn’t have made the previous cuts to begin with.

“This stop-and-go approach was wrong,” he said. “And they are trying to repair it now but it’s only partial to the damage that was caused.”

Francois Legault, leader of the Coalition for Quebec’s Future, said his party has calculated the Liberals ”have taken roughly $1,300 from Quebec families per year” since returning to power in 2014.

“This budget is a failure for the pocketbook of Quebec families and lacks ambition,” he said. “They cut in the budget early in the mandate and then give it back as we near the election. That’s not how to do it.”

Just Posted

Red Deer College waiting for feds to finalize marijuana legalization

Like businesses, Alberta and municipal governments, Red Deer College is waiting for… Continue reading

Class size only part of the problem say Central Alberta teachers

Though the Alberta auditor general’s report points out that classroom sizes continue… Continue reading

Lacombe County promoting crime prevention measures

County pushing Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles

Red Deer doctor concerned about patient transfers to rural hospitals

Family physician says the move creates less incentive for expansion at Red Deer hospital

Fire permit season begins in March

Earlier springs in last few years prompted Alberta government to move up fire permit season

WATCH: Red Deer’s River Bend upgrades officially open

River Bend Golf and Recreation Area is the latest venue to be… Continue reading

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Stores make push in scan and go tech, hope shoppers adopt it

NEW YORK — Shoppers at self-checkout lanes scanning all their groceries after… Continue reading

‘Stars seemed to have aligned’ for new Halifax CFL bid, commissioner says

HALIFAX — CFL fans in Halifax have been told the league is… Continue reading

The language of ‘Black Panther’? It’s real. Give it a try.

OTTAWA — The military’s top general has promised to get to the… Continue reading

New execution date set for Georgia’s ‘stocking strangler’

ATLANTA — A man known as the “stocking strangler,” who was convicted… Continue reading

Man says he kicked Chevy Chase in self-defence in dispute

SOUTH NYACK, N.Y. — A New York man says he kicked Chevy… Continue reading

Supporters of Tina Fontaine’s family march in Winnipeg to support her family

WINNIPEG — Hundreds marched through the streets of Winnipeg on Friday in… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month