QUEBEC – The 2021-2022 budget of the Government of Quebec will be tabled later than expected this year, and will be made public, exceptionally, without the presence of hordes of experts and observers responsible for analyzing it from all angles.
Traditionally, the budget is presented in March, with the fiscal year ending March 31. But under the circumstances it is not impossible that the filing will be postponed until April, this year.
At least that is what is going on at the Department of Finance, according to what The Canadian Press learned on Monday from various government sources.
Contrary to what usually happens at this time of year, no decision has yet been made on when the budget is to be tabled, let alone on the best way to make it public in a safe way in a context. pandemic.
Last year, the Minister of Finance, Eric Girard, announced on February 6 that he would table his 2020-2021 budget on March 10, just days before the health emergency decree.
This Monday, February 15, 2021, the context has completely changed with the ambient uncertainty caused by the health crisis and no date has yet circulated for the presentation of the 2021-2022 budget, the third of Minister Girard, who reserves the privilege of change your mind at the last minute.
One thing is certain, the idea of holding the annual high mass in the huge hall of the Quebec City Convention Center on the occasion of the budgetary lock-up is totally excluded this year.
Normally, several hundred people (journalists, civil servants, elected officials, political staff, experts and analysts) crowd there like sardines throughout the duration of the closed session, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
As the big day approaches, several alternative scenarios are currently being considered.
The most likely scenario this year would be to bring together journalists from the National Assembly Press Gallery exclusively behind closed doors in a large hall of parliament.
All other journalists would therefore be excluded from the premises, as well as experts and other observers of the political scene (unions, pressure groups, organizations), who arrive in Quebec for the occasion, and who should therefore be content to follow the remote event in virtual mode, by consulting online documents.
It is also not impossible that even the presence of parliamentary correspondents is prohibited. Quebec would then opt for a completely virtual event, as Ontario did last November to present its budget, apparently without problem.
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Mamadi Camara accepts the apologies of the SPVM
Mamadi III Fara Camara, this Montrealer who spent six days in prison because of an error in the person, accepted the apology offered in person on Monday by the head of the Police Department of the City of Montreal (SPVM). The page is not turned so far, since the man is still studying the possibility of bringing a civil suit. “For the family, this meeting was a sign of appeasement. Mr. Camara accepted the SPVM’s apologies, his family appreciated the gesture, but that does not allow us to turn the page. He is always overwhelmed by events, ”says Me Virginie Dufresne-Lemire, the civil lawyer who now represents the 31-year-old man. “Mr. Camara wants to take his time and will see what he wants to do next,” she explained. The decision to file a civil suit has not yet been taken by Mr. Camara, said the lawyer, who is currently analyzing the evidence submitted to the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions following his arrest.
Dependency intervention centers close to closing
Many centers offering therapy for alcoholism and drug addiction in Quebec are in a precarious financial situation, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are even considering closing their doors. They are asking for additional help from the Legault government. Jean de Fonvieille runs the Maison Nouvelle Vie, a dependency intervention center located in Ham Sud, in the Eastern Townships. He fears having to put an end to the activities of the organization he founded in 2008. “Currently, according to our evaluations, we can hold out until about June,” he believes. La Maison Nouvelle Vie offers closed cures lasting three months to people with alcohol or drug problems. In order to respect social distancing, the organization had to reduce its reception capacity, which went from 28 to 18 beds. “Our income has been reduced by around 40%,” says Jean de Fonvieille.
The documents produced on this occasion by the Ministry of Finance and the Treasury Board (for the expenditure side of the ministries), are bricks of several hundred pages each. Digital access could be a challenge, since these are very large files.
From deficit to deficit
With the pandemic that continues and increasingly eats away at the public treasury ($ 13 billion since March, it was said in November), the day of the budget presentation we should not anticipate a series of good news from the Minister of Finance.
In November, Mr. Girard predicted that the deficit would reach $ 8.3 billion in 2021-2122.
This year, the hole in public finances reaches an all-time high of $ 15 billion. In 2022-2023, the deficit would reach $ 7 billion. This means that from 2020 to 2023, we get a total of $ 30 billion written in red ink in the Quebec budget.
The return to a balanced budget is not expected before 2025-2026, the ultimate deadline for complying with the law. Could Minister Girard take advantage of the budget presentation to announce his intention to amend the law? Could he defer payments to the Generations Fund? The answers will come later.
Mr. Girard said he would provide an update on his game plan to return to balanced budgets when he presented his next budget.
On many occasions, despite the difficult financial context caused by the health crisis, the government has made a commitment not to increase the tax burden on Quebecers, and therefore to renounce raising taxes, while avoiding reducing public services. .
To get there, there will be no magic recipe. Quebec will have to play on two fronts: find a way to provoke strong economic growth, to increase revenues in the state coffers, while succeeding in convincing the federal government to substantially increase health transfers.
Quebec is demanding that Ottawa’s share of health spending be reduced from 22% to 35%. Such a scenario would add $ 6 billion annually to the pockets of the Quebec government.
Meanwhile, the opposition parties are starting to position themselves to make their recommendations to the Minister of Finance on what they expect to find in the 2021-2022 budget.
Monday, the spokesperson for Quebec solidaire, MP Vincent Marissal, returned to demand a “pandemic tax” for companies “which have done very well” since the start of the health crisis. He made it a question of fiscal balance to be established.
“There are companies, let’s face it, supermarkets, for example, Metro, Dollarama, but also multinationals, like Walmart, which have made a lot of money, which have benefited, in a way, from the economic situation. , they remained open, ”he observed at a press briefing, urging the Minister of Finance to“ recover part of the money that these companies were able to garner ”.
Jocelyne Richer, The Canadian Press