• Stephanie O’Hanley

New Quebec budget benefits Vaudreuil-Soulanges say MNAs

PHOTO BY STEPHANIE O'HANLEY Lucie Charlebois, Liberal MNA for Soulanges and Minister for Rehabilitation, Youth Protection, Public Health and Healthy Living, and the Minister responsible for the Montérégie region (left), holds up a copy of Quebec's Infrastructure Plan as Marie-Claude Nichols (right), Liberal MNA for Vaudreuil and Deputy Government Whip, looks on. On March 31 the two MNAs gave journalists their take on the newly tabled 2017-2018 Quebec budget.

Last Friday, March 31, local journalists were invited to sit in a cozy corner of Les Coteaux’s municipal library to hear Lucie Charlebois, Liberal MNA for Soulanges and Marie-Claude Nichols, Liberal MNA for Vaudreuil, give their take on the newly tabled 2017-2018 Quebec budget.

Charlebois, who is Minister for Rehabilitation, Youth Protection, Public Health and Healthy Living, and the Minister responsible for the Montérégie region, called it a “very good budget,” pointing out the government not only balanced its budget but reduced the province’s gross debt as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP).

“We’re super happy because there will be direct benefits in the county, particularly in health,” Charlebois said.

“I agree with Lucie, it’s an excellent budget for Quebecers,” said Nichols, who is Deputy Government Whip. “It’s the third balanced budget our government has tabled. I’m very proud.”

While opposition parties accuse the government of cutting health program spending, Charlebois said this isn’t true. Holding up a document, she said, “This table lists precise amounts. As you can see, expenditures have never stopped increasing. What we’ve done is controlled increases in spending. This isn’t a cut, it’s efficient management. Our children will have a choice and our grandchildren will be able to make choices without being stretched to the limit all the time.”

New hospital

Charlebois and Nichols said Health Minister Gaétan Barrette informed them the new Vaudreuil-Soulanges hospital project is heading to the planning stage as the government follows rules the Public Infrastructure Act outlines for projects worth more than $50 million. “It’s a big step,” said Nichols. “I think this is great news.”

“It doesn’t take two minutes, it doesn’t take two years, it takes several years,” Charlebois said of the project. “We have to do things correctly and follow the laws put in place.”

Autism funding

With health spending increasing by 4.2 percent, part of that money will include a recently announced $29 million annual five-year investment in services and programs for people with autism spectrum disorder, Charlebois said. The plan, which she said will reduce waiting lists by 45 per cent, includes diagnostic and behavioural services for children age 0-5, financial support for families, funding so community organizations can create child care spaces for parents seeking respite care, support staff in schools, and social and professional services for adults with autism.

“I’m talking about $29 million because in our respective counties I’ve heard about it a lot ever since I started in politics in 2003 and when I was named Minister for Rehabilitation it was the first thing that came to mind for my constituents,” she said. “When you start young you have a chance.”

The government is earmarking $80 million over five years for a program to support community organizations, $10 million in the first year. Besides helping existing organizations, the additional funding will help recognized community organizations that don’t receive government funding.

Other investments include:

  • $7 million, which Charlebois said “will mainly go to Montreal,” to provide 150 homeless people with apartments and support services;

  • An additional $20 million for preventive health;

  • $5 million for a project distributing fruit and vegetable snacks to schools in disadvantaged areas;

  • $5 million (for organizations) to create a digital suicide prevention strategy;

  • Funds to improve accessibility at home for people with disabilities, to make buildings more accessible and funding for accessible transportation;

  • Interventions to integrate disabled children into educational daycares.

Education

Charlebois said there were no cuts to the education budget. “We freed up interest on the debt. That allowed us to invest elsewhere,” she said, noting $1.8 billion “to enhance support for students throughout their school path” and $1.5 billion for higher education, “will benefit our counties because young people are our future.”

“Some great announcements are coming in education,” Nichols said. “We’re investing a lot of money in infrastructure and we have two new infrastructure projects in Vaudreuil that will be announced shortly.”

Miscellaneous

Nichols said she and Charlebois made Finance Minister Carlos Leitão aware of their priorities for Vaudreuil-Soulanges and that they put “a bit of pressure” on Leitão to renew the RénoVert green renovation tax credit program for another year.

The planned 27-station Réseau électrique métropolitain rapid transit system will have an impact on citizens, Nichols said, pointing out the government is chipping in $1.3 billion in addition to the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec’s $6-billlion commitment.

People may not be aware of Quebec’s Roulez vert program, which offers rebates when you purchase a green vehicle, she said.

The government is spending $36 million over the next five years to help local and community print newspapers with digital transitions, Nichols told reporters.

She said a refund of health tax contributions paid in 2016 for people earning $134, 095 or less and a general income tax cut benefit citizens. “It’s not everyone who pays taxes but for those who do, this will make a difference,” Nichols said.

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