For the Legault government, the day of “budgetary truth” has arrived.
It is therefore this afternoon that we will know if the Minister of Finance, Eric Girard, will succeed in limiting the budgetary damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to the province’s public finances to $ 15 billion.
One thing is certain: the damage will not be less!
And another big question: will the Minister of Finance introduce or not introduce targeted tax and / or tax increases to counter the spending increases attributable to the merciless fight against COVID-19?
In his economic update last June, Minister Girard had promised to give the true picture this fall on the state of budgetary health of the Legault government.
Thing promised, thing due!
Because of the strike force of the second wave of the pandemic, it would be surprising if the minister did not revise upwards the heavy deficit of 15 billion dollars that he anticipated last June.
BUDGETARY REVISION MANDATORY
I will summarize the evolution of the 2020-21 budget portrait. In his budget speech on March 10, Minister Girard expected to end the current fiscal year with a surplus of $ 2.7 billion (before transfer of money to the Generations Fund).
Two weeks later, François Legault decreed a vast containment to counter the coronavirus pandemic, paralyzing nothing less than 40% of the sectors of the Quebec economy. A serious crisis ensues as hundreds and hundreds of thousands of workers lose their jobs.
And on June 23, Éric Girard unveiled a package of financial and economic measures aimed at helping individuals and businesses victims of COVID-19. From an anticipated surplus of $ 2.7 billion, the budgetary balance for the current fiscal year (2020-21) has been revised to a deficit of $ 14.9 billion.
To save the honor of “balanced budgets”, Minister Girard empties the stabilization reserve where we found the $ 15 billion accumulated thanks to the budget surpluses achieved under the Couillard government and its minister Carlos Leitao.
Five terrible months have passed since June 23.
Looking forward to seeing this afternoon whether the Legault government’s treasurer will greatly revise or not … its June budget revision, which still included a $ 4 billion cushion.
Due to the second wave of the pandemic, we can expect the Legault government to further open the budgetary floodgates in order to put in place other solid emergency measures to face the health crisis and … the crisis. economic.
It is obvious that the health network needs additional financial resources. The same goes for services for the elderly, for helping workers who are victims of COVID-19, for the survival of economic sectors (culture, accommodation, restaurants, aeronautics, retail trade, etc.) victims of closure or a major slowdown. of their activities, etc.
HOW MUCH BILLION $ MORE?
Last June, Minister Girard announced around fifty measures “to manage the health crisis”, for a total cost of $ 6.6 billion. How many billions of dollars will he add this afternoon? The bets are open.