$500 cheques for a majority of Quebecers

Provincial government tables annual budget with provisions to address inflation

The Legault government tabled its annual budget on Tuesday, promising several measures that would directly affect Park Extension residents. Photo: Matias Brunet-Kirk

The Legault government tabled its annual budget on Tuesday, promising several measures that would directly affect Park Extension residents, including measures to alleviate the effects of inflation.

Among several budgetary decisions, the provincial government said it would send a one-time payment of $500 to every Quebecer making a salary of less than $100,000 to help people deal with the soaring cost of living.

“We do have measures to help people with the cost-of-living increase,” said finance minister Eric Girard about the move. Approximately 6.4 million Quebecers will benefit from this financial aid and will represent a government expenditure of approximately $3.2 billion. 

The budget also includes several other important provisions, including a 6.3 per cent increase in spending on health care and social, budgeted at $54 billion, and a 5.4 per cent increase in spending on the school system earmarked at $19 billion. Another $347 million would go to affordable and social housing.

Reaction Park Ex 

While the government said the payment was necessary to help Quebecers, many in Park Extension are critical of what seems like electoral tactics to shore up votes for the upcoming election. 

“Conservative politics is all about one-time payments and ‘putting dollars in people’s pockets,’” said resident Leila Marshy.“$500 in my pocket is nice, who’s going to say no to that,” she said, but added it’s “a buy-out and does not replace better social policies so people don’t suffer from food, housing or money insecurities.” 

Many other residents also felt this way, saying they will happily accept the $500 cheque, but wanted to see more done to address underlying issues. 

“Pooling that same amount of money together could pay for practical updates to schools, health care, infrastructure, housing or any of the other provincial responsibilities,” said Rachel Shugart. “A one-time payment of $500 doesn’t provide anyone with stability,” she added.

The provincial government announced it would send $500 cheques to all Quebecers making less than $100,000. Photo: François Legault via Facebook.

Opposition in Laurier-Dorion

These viewpoints were also echoed by many opposition parties. Québec Solidaire MNA for Laurier-Dorion Andrés Fontecilla also voiced his disapproval of the provision.

“This measure is electoral and unfair,” said Fontecilla, explaining the salary threshold for eligibility was far too high. 

“Rather than sending a $500 cheque to people who earn $99,000 a year and who don’t need it, Québec Solidaire called for targeted measures such as increasing the solidarity tax credit, to help people with lower incomes cope with the rising cost of living,” he added. 

“This $500 cheque, although a short-term breath of fresh air for low-income households in Park Extension, is not a structural measure to deal with inflation and the cost of living crisis,” continued the MNA, adding that financing social housing, raising the minimum wage and creating new daycares would do more in the fight against poverty. 

“A one-time payment of $500 doesn’t provide anyone with stability,”

Provisions for social housing

The budget also earmarks an additional $247 million to complete the construction of 3,500 affordable housing units across the province. Although the city had initially requested $250 million, Montreal will instead receive $30 million. 

Another $100 million will be invested to build 1000 new housing units through the Quebec Affordable Housing Program by 2026-2027.

​​“It’s a long way from meeting the urgent needs and repeated requests for housing from the community and the municipal sector,” said housing group Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) in a press release.

As housing critic for QS, Andrés Fontecilla seconded this viewpoint. “This budget does not provide for any new social housing units. It is excessively contemptuous to Quebec renters

who have been suffering from the housing crisis for several years now,” he said.

“The budget also provides for 1,000 affordable housing units across Quebec, while municipalities were asking for at least 13,400,” added Fontecilla. “It’s a drop of water in an ocean of needs.” 

Québec Solidaire MNA for Laurier-Dorion Andrés Fontecilla also voiced his disapproval of the provision. Photo: NEWSFIRST

“Prudent financial framework”

The government nonetheless prided itself in their latest budget adding these were not electoral tactics. Finance Minister Girard added that the budget was working to rebalance the structural deficit.

“I am at the service of Quebecers,” he said. “I think people will be pleasantly surprised that we are prudent, that we’re dealing with the immediate needs. We’re also funding the principal missions of the state: health care, education, the economy, the environment,” he continued.

“We’re providing for the long term. We’re thinking beyond the election. Concerning fighting cost-of-living increases, I think the need is immediate,” he added, rebuffing accusations of electoral politics. 

The Finance Minister also added he hoped this “prudent financial framework” could contribute to rebalancing the structural budget by fiscal year 2027-2028. “It is possible we reach a balanced situation a year or two before, but we have a high degree of uncertainty,” he added, pointing to the pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine. 

Photo: Government of Québec