Analysis | Help of $400 to $600: still a promise?
The speech of the Quebec Minister of Finance seems out of step with that of his federal counterpart.
Eric Girard has confirmed the granting of new financial assistance to a vast majority of Quebec taxpayers by Christmas.
Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland was very clear last week when she tabled her economic statement. “While the Bank of Canada fights inflation, we will not complicate its job. We are compassionate, [but] we are also responsible,” she told the House of Commons.
Even if inflation remains high, and Canadians are suffering from it, Ottawa has chosen not to put more money on the table, or so little. The time is no longer for major universal support measures, we understand, but for more specific actions.
While announcing a few targeted measures to help the least well-off workers paid, the Minister devoted most of her speech to discussing the challenges facing the Canadian economy once the recession is over, which has yet to officially begin.
In fact, it's a bit like inflation is already history for Chrystia Freeland. The same cannot be said for its Quebec counterpart.
“Our economy is slowing down,” said the Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland, presenting her economic statement.
Despite criticism when sending the previous check, Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard persisted and signed: the vast majority of Quebec taxpayers will receive new direct assistance ranging from $400 to $600, just in time. for Christmas.
While Minister Freeland announced last Thursday new spending averaging $3.7 billion per year, across Canada, the Legault government will spend just with this measure – and in Quebec alone – $3.5 billion. billion all at once. This is without counting the other commitments provided for in the CAQ's financial framework and which should be announced during the Minister's economic and budgetary update on December 8.
This new payment will certainly make a difference for many taxpayers, but there will also be consequences. In addition to widening the deficit and worrying experts who believe that this kind of aid fuels inflation, the Legault government also risks damaging the balance of power it is trying to create with its federal counterpart. on the question of health transfers.
It's not the money that's lacking in the provincial systems, if they are sending checks for people who have less need, argued Justin Trudeau on Tuesday. The Canadian Prime Minister was visiting New Brunswick, but his message was just as much for Quebec.
He was even more blunt the next day: If a government is making choices about sending checks to citizens rather than investing in the healthcare system, that's a choice that will have to be justified to citizens. .
In the National Assembly, the three opposition parties echoed these criticisms, accusing the Quebec government of casting too wide a net. It looks like [François Legault] wants to shoot the Central Bank's boat, which is trying to fight inflation, said the new Liberal finance critic, Frédéric Beauchemin.
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The Bank of Canada began tightening its key rate on March 2, 2022.
Publicly discussed as early as May, the idea of sending a second check to Quebecers appeared a while ago, when the Bank of Canada was just beginning to raise its key rate and the inflation rate n had not yet reached its peak. We will never know if the government would take the same decision today, if it had not made this new payment a formal electoral commitment.
If inflation persists, the context changes quickly. New concerns are emerging, and the proliferation of all-out financial aid since the start of the pandemic has come under increasing criticism. Here as abroad, governments are reviewing their plans, tightening the purse strings.
Eric Girard himself recognizes that it will soon be time to turn the page on this kind of large-scale measures. Inflation is really an issue for 2022, OK? 2023, what will dominate the concerns of Quebecers, governments and businesses is the slowdown in the economy, he admitted at a press conference.
If the Quebec minister honors the promise that his government reiterated during the election campaign, we would not be surprised to see him soon follow in the footsteps of his federal counterpart and sing a new refrain.