QUEBEC – Quebec’s finance minister announced personal income tax cuts and increased funds for health and education on Tuesday and immediately denied the moves had anything to do with next year’s provincial election.
“We are announcing today further tax reductions because we started doing that already last year,” said Carlos Leitao. “This year we’re adding another $1 billion. And if we do it now, it’s because we can do it now.”
The government says a family of two adults and two children that earns $88,000 a year will see a tax reduction of $1,200, which includes the abolition of a health fee as well as the introduction of money earmarked for school supplies.
A single person who earns $44,000 will save an estimated $500.
Asked specifically whether the tax cuts will help the Liberals win next October’s election, Leitao replied, “Eleven months in politics is a lifetime. Who knows what’s going to happen in the next 11 months.”
“These tax cuts are intended to give the population some breathing space,” he said. “It is something we said we’d do.
“Since Quebecers have the highest tax burden in Canada, and we can lighten their burden, then yes, (we’re doing it).”
Opinion polls suggest the Liberals are locked in a tight battle with the right-leaning Coalition for Quebec’s Future, with the Parti Quebecois trailing in third place.
Leitao has probably not stopped handing out the goodies. He will table the 2018-19 budget next March or April and will no doubt sprinkle a few others to woo voters.
The measures announced Tuesday include $100 for families for each child so they can purchase school supplies, although the government will have no direct control over how the money is actually spent.
It will be retroactive to this year and parents will receive a first cheque in January.
Leitao also said the government will invest an additional $630 million in the health sector over the next six years and $212 million in education over the same period.
Another measure will see the province invest $2.6 billion over six years in a bid to lift 100,000 people out of poverty.
Details of the ambitious plan are expected to be made public by the end of the year.
PQ finance critic Nicolas Marceau reacted to Leitao’s measures by stating that Premier Philippe Couillard “is taking Quebecers for idiots.”
“He’s insulting their intelligence,” Marceau said.
“Today we’re seeing the beginning of the Liberals’ election campaign — a campaign that is not financed by Liberal party funds but rather by Quebecers’ money. It is being financed by the major cuts we’ve suffered over the last three years.”