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Press release

2003-2004 Budget
A more prosperous society

Québec, March 11, 2003 - In the 2003-2004 Budget Speech, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Economy and Research Pauline Marois presented concrete measures aimed at continuing to develop the economy and achieving full employment, ensuring prosperity in all regions of Québec and promoting the return of young people to outlying regions.

"Buoyed by the remarkable economic performance to date, our government has set 2005 for achieving full employment. The strategy I released in December contains clear objectives and a specific process to that end. It stems directly from the Horizon 2005 action plan tabled last fall by our government. Through the 2003-2004 Budget, we will be able to step up our efforts on behalf of economic development and ensure that all regions of Québec share in the prosperity," the Deputy Prime Minister declared.

Continue developing the economy . . .

To support economic development and achieve full employment, the 2003-2004 Budget Speech identifies three strategic areas of intervention: worker training, support for business investment and assistance for technological change, in particular in the biotechnology sector.

. . . by capitalizing on the wealth of our labour force

Because the training of Québec workers is crucial, Ms. Marois announced that $60 million over three years will be invested to better meet job market needs.

"Most of that amount will be used to accelerate vocational and technical training for trades in high demand. Another portion of the amount will be used to enrol more people in training or employability programs so that they can re-enter the job market. We also want to facilitate job entry for people aged 45 and over by helping them to better develop their skills," the Minister of Finance, the Economy and Research affirmed.

. . . by promoting business investment

In conjunction with the Towards Full Employment strategy, and to promote business investment, the 2003-2004 Budget provides for an injection of $43.6 million as of this year. Helping businesses become more competitive and improving their access to financing are the two means that have been retained to that end.

Ms. Marois announced, in this regard, three major initiatives promoting the increase of exports, the development of cooperatives and the growth of social economy businesses.

. . . by turning technological change to greater advantage, in particular in the biotechnology sector

To ensure that the many firms that have recently emerged in the promising sector of biotechnology grow and take hold in Québec, access to sufficient venture capital must be offered to them.

That is why Ms. Marois announced today the creation of a fund to promote the growth of emerging biotechnology firms in Québec. The fund will be allocated minimum capital of $300 million. The Société Innovatech du Grand Montréal, which will coordinate the fund's implementation, as well as the Fonds de solidarité des travailleurs du Québec and the Société générale de financement, will each contribute $50 million at the outset. Other private investors, both local and foreign, will be called upon to contribute. "Thus, Québec is setting up a major strike force, capable of preserving and intensifying the role of this industry in the Québec economy," the Deputy Prime Minister stated.

The Bio-Levier program will continue to facilitate the growth of emerging biotechnology firms by granting capitalization loans. The 2003-2004 Budget Speech injects another $50 million into the program, over and above the $100 million already allocated.

Moreover, an additional investment of $3 million in 2003-2004 will enable college centres for technology transfer to provide more support for innovation in the regions, and $5 million will be granted, as of this year, to finance business incubators, which assist new businesses by providing them with better support, accelerating their growth and increasing their survival rate.

Increase prosperity in all regions . . .

. . . by promoting the return of young people to the regions

To make it easier for young people to remain in, or return to, the remote resource regions, the 2003-2004 Budget Speech provides for targeted measures totalling $27 million a year:
· a refundable tax credit for new graduates of up to $8 000, and a new refundable tax credit for the businesses that hire them;
· a tax credit on the interest paid on their student loan that is twice as generous as the credit available to other young people;
· an enhanced tax credit for on-the-job training.

. . . by ensuring vibrant businesses in the regions

To ensure the vibrancy of businesses in the regions, the Deputy Prime Minister announced additional funds of $17 million, beginning this year, to support projects stemming from ACCORD (for Action Concertée de Coopération Régionale de Développement) agreements.

"Already, no fewer than six regions have mapped out their game plan and signed an ACCORD agreement. In this way, Québec and its regions are breaking new ground and positioning themselves as few societies in the world have done," indicated the Minister of Finance, the Economy and Research.

In another effort to ensure the vibrancy of businesses in the regions and support projects and special initiatives, Ms. Marois announced that a $25-million budget will be entrusted, as of this year, to the regional development councils. In this way, the government is responding to a request from regional organizations and will make sure that they have all the necessary leeway in the use of these funds. "Regional leaders will have to determine their priorities together," concluded the Deputy Prime Minister.

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