The Quebec government will spend an additional $600 million this year as part of a colossal effort to revive an economy that remains in a state of shock from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finance Minister Eric Girard announced the new spending measures Thursday in the fall economic update. They are in addition to $9.6 billion the government has already set aside for economic and financial support in 2020-21.
The $600 million in new spending includes $70 million for business hit hard by the pandemic and nearly $250 million for retraining workers.
The update also revealed the government has allocated around $1.8 billion to prepare the health-care system for the second wave of coronavirus infections that are currently sweeping through the province.
Much of the province has been under partial lockdown for at least a month, though the number of infections, and deaths, continue to rise.
With large parts of the service and cultural sector closed because of public health regulations, and following the more widespread closures in the spring, Quebec is expecting the economy to shrink by six per cent by the end of the year.
That’s the largest annual decline in real GDP since 1981, when modern accounting methods started being used in the province, and far outstrips the decline that followed the 2008 financial crisis.
“We must collectively tackle one of the worst crises in Quebec’s history and the government will take every necessary step to strengthen our health-care system and help hard-hit citizens and businesses so that they can get through this pandemic and recover quickly,” Girard said in a statement.
The pandemic-related spending will saddle Quebec with a $15 billion deficit this year, in line with an estimate released during the summer.
Girard pledged the government will return to a balanced budget by 2025, though his spending plan contains no details past a commitment to reduce the deficit to $7 billion by 2022-23.
The next provincial election is scheduled for 2022.