Press release No. 2
2005-2006 Budget Speech
Health and education: our priorities
“The first objective of this Budget is to continue to invest in our main priorities and, above all, in health and education.”
— Michel Audet
Québec, April 21, 2005 – In the last two years, the Québec government has adopted several top action priorities. The 2005-2006 Budget Speech tabled today in the National Assembly by Finance Minister Michel Audet clearly reflects those priorities. “In short, we sought to give Québec a government centred on one fundamental value: citizens first,” affirmed Mr. Audet.
Health: $826 million more for direct services to the population
Thus, in keeping with the commitments made during the last election campaign, the government made health its priority. “Today, we can be proud to have reorganized services and reversed the underinvestment trend of previous years by reinvesting $3 billion since our government took office,” indicated the Finance Minister.
Mr. Audet mentioned some of the results obtained:
- increase in the number of surgeries (knee: +60%, hanche: +28%, cataract: +30%);
- increase in the number of family medicine groups in Québec to 82 from only 17 in March 2003;
- considerable improvement in the functioning of emergency rooms (shorter average stay, despite an increase of almost 5% in the number of patients);
- substantial increase in the number of medical students.
Regarding these results, the Finance Minister affirmed: “Our track record in the area of health is sound. We reversed the trend. And this Budget enables us to continue our efforts to provide better health services to Quebecers.”
For 2005-2006, the Budget tabled today provides for the injection of another $826 million to improve direct services to the population. This year's health budget will therefore be $20.9 billion. Thus, health spending will have grown 5.2% in two years.
Moreover, the Minister stated that, over the next three years, investments in health infrastructures will represent nearly $2.6 billion for Québec as a whole. Mr. Audet also pointed out that, with the construction of two university hospitals in Montréal, more than $2.5 billion will be invested on behalf of Quebecers in all regions.
“The money we are investing will give our physicians and researchers better access to leading-edge technology. In very concrete terms, that means better care for all Quebecers,” Mr. Audet affirmed.
Strengthening our social safety net
The 2005-2006 Budget also provides that, as of July 2005, medication will be completely free for persons 65 or older who receive the maximum guaranteed income supplement.
Lastly, in keeping with the government's commitments, the invaluable contribution of natural caregivers to society will be better recognized. In that regard, the Finance Minister announced the introduction of a tax credit for natural caregivers. Under the tax credit, a low-income couple that cares for an adult child with a disability will be able to count on additional support of $1 000 a year.
“Thanks to this reform, over 80 000 natural caregivers and people with a physical or mental impairment will receive additional assistance of $43 million,” declared the Finance Minister.
Education: $321 million more for success
The other main priority of the government, education, will receive an additional $321 million this year. Thus, in three years, the government will have invested over $1 billion in the academic achievement of Québec youth.
In 2005-2006, the homework assistance budget will be doubled. Moreover, the three-year plan to encourage reading in school will be implemented and, as of September 2006, English second language will be taught beginning in the first grade.
The Finance Minister also pointed out that, since 2003, the government will have allocated an extra $380 million to universities.
“Thus, we will have invested more in education in three years than the previous government did in nine years, reflecting our determination to emphasize success in school,” affirmed Mr. Audet.
Arts and culture : to increase business investment in Québec culture
“Culture is not only the mirror of our society, but also the torch that enables it to shine throughout the world,” declared the Finance Minister.
Last year, various measures to improve the socioeconomic conditions of Québec creators were introduced. This year, our objective is to increase business investment in Québec culture.
Mr. Audet therefore announced, among other things, the creation of Placements Culture, which will support development of the arts and culture thanks to private sector contributions.
Families: always at the heart of gover nment action
Moreover, the 2005-2006 Budget confirms the government’s intention to continue placing families at the heart of its actions.
Further to the major decisions made last year regarding Québec families—in particular the introduction of the Child Assistance measure, under which one million families share $2 million a year in non-taxable financial assistance, and the introduction of the Work Premium, which raised the income of 170 000 families—the Finance Minister indicated that even more will be done in the months to come.
Indeed, as of January 1, 2006 , Québec families will be able to take advantage of a new parental leave plan, Québec having obtained full control over the plan when it signed an agreement with the federal government on March 1 of this year.
Greater social justice for all
Better protection for investors
The 2005-2006 Budget continues the action already taken regarding social housing.
The Finance Minister announced an investment of $145 million for the construction of 2 600 new dwellings under the AccèsLogis program for low-income households. All told, the government will have supported the construction of 18 600 dwellings and invested $401 million.
In addition, an extra $15 million will be investedto renovate existing social housing and thereby improve the quality of life of a large number of Quebecers.
Deployment of the plan to combat poverty
“We have also stood by our objective of greater social justice for all, by introducing last year the plan to combat poverty. The plan includes a series of measures that will lead to $2.5 billion in investments over five years,” affirmed the Finance Minister.
“We are in the process of building a Québec where the sick can receive the care they need when they need it, where children can receive an education that will open the doors to the future, where workers can derive more enjoyment from the fruits of their labour, and where all citizens can receive quality public services,” stated the Finance Minister.
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