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June 3, 2020 – Provincial government update on the COVID-19 pandemic

Here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the Québec government in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Economic recovery plan

The Québec government announced its plan to relaunch the economy and mitigate the impact of the pandemic by accelerating 202 public infrastructure projects totalling $14 billion.

The president of the Treasury Board, Christian Dubé, and the minister of Finance, Éric Girard, explained that the economic impact of the pandemic has triggered the worst global recession since the Second World War.

The minister of Finance stated that by accelerating projects over the next two years, instead of over a 10-year period, the government will stimulate the economy, create jobs and benefit from better prices given the availability of labour and the drop in private sector projects.

Schools, hospitals, CHSLDs, highways and public transit

The 202 infrastructure projects pertain to the renovation and construction of schools, hospitals, residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs) as well as highways and public transit infrastructure.

“These projects were prioritized in the list of projects that were already planned,” said the president of the Treasury Board. They will be completed in keeping with Québec’s values of sustainable development.

There are 39 projects in the area of education, namely, to renovate and build elementary and high schools, particularly in the Montréal area.

The health sector will see 90 major projects, including the construction of 48 seniors’ homes.

Some 34 highway projects and 16 public transit projects will be completed, including improvements to highways 15 and 19, the extension of the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) line to Laval and the metro on the Island of Montréal, as well as new tramway networks in Laval and the South Shore.

Health state of emergency extended

The president of the Treasury Board, Christian Dubé, explained that in order to be able to pursue these 202 public infrastructure projects, the government wants to extend the health state of emergency for two years, decreed under the pandemic.

The bill enabling the acceleration of 202 projects reduces a whole range of constraints and obligations around procedures pertaining to review and authorization, calls for tender, the awarding of contracts and the completion of work.

Moving toward best practices

In keeping with the proverb “Every cloud has a silver lining,” the president of the Treasury Board hopes that the pandemic will make it possible, in the context of this emergency, to take action to relaunch Québec’s economy and will lead to an improvement in government processes.

“If you will allow me a poor parallel, the pandemic pushed us to adopt telework and telemedicine, and I want it to push us to be more efficient in awarding public contracts,” he said.

Mr. Dubé hopes that if processes are completed in three months instead of one year in the accelerated form, then methods can be revised to maintain this efficiency while applying best management practices and administrative rigour.

Economic statement on June 19

Minister of Finance Éric Girard will unveil his economic update on June 19, informed by the most recent information compiled as at June 9.

The minister stated that, by fall, it will be possible for him to present a five-year trajectory toward a return to a balanced budget in Québec. The global recession triggered by the pandemic turned the government budget upside down “from a surplus of about $3 to 4 billion per year for the next five years into a serious deficit.”

He noted that efforts to tighten public spending in Québec for the last 15 years have placed the province in a good position to correct the situation.

He added that all countries have been forced to increase their debt burden. He said that “those who have a credible plan to restore a balanced budget and control their debt” will weather the storm better.

Return to a normal economy by the of end 2021

The minister of Finance hopes that by December 2021, Québec’s economic vitality will have been restored to December 2019 levels.

He hopes that the economic rebound in 2021 will compensate for the 2020 decline. “Then, the results will have been positive,” he said.