Flush with surplus revenue, the Coalition Avenir Québec government is making good on its promise to eliminate the sliding-scale system for daycare fees and boosting the child allowance earlier than expected.
Finance Minister Éric Girard announced $857 million in new expenditures for the current fiscal year — $525 million of which will be put toward new spending and $332 million of which will go back into the pockets of Quebecers.
"The economy is performing remarkably well, and this increases our revenues, allows us to give money back to Quebecers and still have responsible fiscal management," Girard said at a news conference Thursday.
Among the highlights:
- The enhanced family allowance will be fully implemented in January 2020, two years earlier than originally promised. Families will receive an additional $779 on average.
- The CAQ's promised return to a single-fee system for public daycare will be retroactive to the beginning of 2019. It will mean an average savings of $1,100 for 140,000 families. The amount of money back varies, depending on the income of the parents. The rebate only applies to tax credits for subsidized daycares.
- Starting in the spring of 2020, hospital parking fees will be capped at around $7 to $10 depending on the region, and the first two hours will be free. Fees in some places were more than $20.
- Families of children with disabilities who require special care will receive an additional $652 per month.
Girard said the province should finish the 2019-2020 fiscal year with a $1.4-billion surplus, driven by a 2.4 per cent increase in GDP in 2019.
That's after Girard transferred more than $2.5 billion in surplus cash into the Generations Fund, which is dedicated to paying down the province's gross debt.
Who wins, who loses?
Carlos Leitão, a former finance minister and now critic for the Opposition Liberals, said the economic update was a boon for some, but left others behind.
"What we see is there are a lot of people who don't get anything," he said.
"The government is forgetting all those who don't have kids [and] the elderly."
He also noted the government plans on tying Hydro-Québec rates to the yearly inflation figure, meaning higher electricity bills.
Quebec's labour federation (FTQ), meanwhile, said more money should have been put toward public services.
"We hoped better from this government who, in opposition, was constantly attacking the Liberals and their obsession with austerity," said FTQ president Daniel Boyer.