Carlos Leitão will present an update on Quebec's finances Tuesday. Jacques Boissinot / The Canadian Press
QUEBEC — The finance minister has said he wants to give Quebec taxpayers and the poor more breathing room, and he is expected to do just that.
Carlos Leitão is to present an update on Quebec’s finances Tuesday, and one of the big features of the operation will be a tax cut that should total about $1 billion, government officials confirmed Monday evening.
That would amount to about $200 more in the pockets of every taxpayer, which may not seem like a lot, but it is a sign the government is ready to loosen the purse strings after several years of cost controls.
Premier Philippe Couillard dropped a big hint that Leitão’s plan will have good news for tax-weary Quebecers.
At an event Monday in Louiseville, Couillard said the government has always said that once it has more money — the surplus is about $2.5 billion — it will find a way to give back.
“It’s a question of keeping a balance between economic growth, financial issues and more sharing and social justice in our society,” Couillard told reporters.
Asked about a Radio-Canada report Monday that Quebec will also pour another $1 billion into the education and health sectors over the next five years, Couillard didn’t rule anything out.
“Each time we have money, we put it in (the system),” Couillard said. “We did significant things in the last budget — as much for education as health and social services. There’s a lot of money in the system now.
“Remember, there’s a budget coming (in March), so this isn’t the end of the story.”
He didn’t mention it, but the next general election also looms, in October 2018, and the government is struggling in the polls.
Leitão is thus expected to offer a little bit now and more later to everyone, and that includes the less fortunate. His update will include a chunk of money to cover the costs of an anti-poverty plan.
The details of that plan will be announced later by Social Solidarity Minister François Blais.
“We will be doing what we said we would do, which is to give Quebec’s families a bit more breathing room, to lighten the tax burden,” Leitão said last week.
“At the same time, we are also going to make public an anti-poverty strategy that will be properly funded, properly financed.”
This time, the anti-poverty plan will be tailored to persons living alone and couples with no children who do not get the same benefits as parents with children.
Leitão will make public his update at the National Assembly around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
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