What Outaouais residents need to know about the Quebec budget

·3 min read
Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard shows the cover of his budget on March 20, the eve of its official release. (Sylvain Roy-Roussel/Radio Canada - image credit)
Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard shows the cover of his budget on March 20, the eve of its official release. (Sylvain Roy-Roussel/Radio Canada - image credit)

Residents across Quebec got a first glimpse Tuesday of how the province's next budget will affect their day-to-day lives.

For people living in the Outaouais, it includes targeted funding for the region's forestry and tourism sectors alongside broader provincial programs to support housing and transit.

The budget, unveiled by the provincial government Tuesday, is the first since Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) secured its second four-year mandate with a majority victory in the October 2022 election.

The budget sees the CAQ meeting an election promise by cutting taxes by one per cent for each for the province's two lowest tax brackets, while simultaneously increasing spending across the board.

Opposition parties have criticized the budget for relying on overly-optimistic economic projections, as some forecasters warn of an economic slowdown.

But while tax cuts are expected to benefit 4.6 million Quebecers in total, Outaouais residents will be affected by the latest provincial budget in several other ways.

Targeted support for Outaouais forestry

For the first budget of its second term, the Legault government is setting aside $128 million over five years for the forestry sector, including specific support for the industry in the Outaouais and Laurentides.

The forestry sector in the area "was weakened by the closure of a major regional mill in October 2019," according to the budget.

Jean-Francois Poudrier/Radio-Canada
Jean-Francois Poudrier/Radio-Canada

The pulp and paper mill in Thurso, Que., closed in late 2019, leaving hundreds of workers jobless.

The government is allocating $10 million in 2023-24 to "secure an outlet for low-quality hardwood from harvests" and to support the sector in those regions.

No new convention centre, but money for tourism

Stakeholders in the region, including the mayor of Gatineau and the Gatineau Chamber of Commerce, wanted the government to commit funds for a new Gatineau convention centre.

The CAQ promised during the election campaign last fall that it would contribute $50 million.

But a new convention centre does not appear in the budget.

Radio-Canada
Radio-Canada

The budget does, however, identify tourism as a "very lucrative market segment" that generates major economic benefits for Montreal, Quebec City and Gatineau in particular.

The CAQ will therefore invest $36 million over three years to "maximize the benefits of tourism," including $15 million to implement a business tourism strategy.

$1B for housing; $400M for transit

Facing high rents and a housing vacancy rate below one per cent in Gatineau, many in the Outaouais expected the budget to prioritize housing.

Over the next six years, Legault's government will invest $1 billion to foster housing affordability, including $650 million that will "support the completion" of over 5,000 social and affordable housing units across the province.

The budget did not identify how many of these units are destined for the Outaouais.

Another $5.8 million is set aside to help municipalities respond to homelessness. At the provincial level, the government intends to improve support for community organizations and increase mental health, homelessness and addiction services.

As ridership remains a challenge for the Société de transport de l'Outaouais (STO) and other municipal transit systems after the pandemic, the CAQ is allocating $400 million to support the recovery of public transit across the province.