MNA Nichols says Vaudreuil short-changed in provincial budget
By Nick Zacharias
PHOTO COURTESY THE OFFICE OF MARIE-CLAUDE NICHOLS
Vaudreuil MNA Marie-Claude Nichols says the latest provincial budget released by the Coalition pour l'avenir du Québec (CAQ) falls significantly short on housing, mental health services, and environmental issues for our region.
Upon reviewing the 2021-22 Quebec budget released last week, Vaudreuil MNA Marie-Claude Nichols feels the needs of the district have been forgotten by the Minister of Finance. Says Nichols, “I am so disappointed that the recent CAQ budget does not address any of the concerns of the riding of Vaudreuil. We have projects that would allow our young people to develop, our population to work and be safer, but the government turns a blind eye. Although our priority is to get out of this pandemic, we must think about the aftermath and redefine our vision of Quebec as a modern, egalitarian and sustainable place.”
In a press release this week, Nichols underscored issues she has with several areas of the budget.
Highway, school and housing projects missing
The completion of Highway 20 has been on the wish list for a long time – both to ease travel for drivers and to improve safety and tranquility in the area, particularly where it passes through Dorion. Although Nichols proposed a new approach in 2019 that would split the completion of the 20 into two phases, beginning with the Vaudreuil-Dorion bypass, she got no response and there is nothing in the new budget to address the file. Nichols said the work could be completed without major environmental impact and without need for land expropriation. “The route is determined, the plans are ready, all that’s missing is Minister of Transport (François) Bonnardel’s endorsement.”
Nichols said in the release that the budget also ignores years-long plans for a new CEGEP campus in Vaudreuil-Dorion, comes up woefully short on public housing with a plan for only 500 new units over four years for all of Quebec, and misses the opportunity to provide added incentives for first-time home buyers in a heated real estate market.
Nichols said that the pandemic provides an excellent opportunity to change how things are done to make them more respectful of the environment, but she sees little investment planned by the government. Though $136 million has been tagged for environmental measures, Nichols says it isn’t enough, and points out that no plan for transitioning to greener energy has been presented. She’s calling it the least green budget tabled by a Quebec government in many years.
Fallout from COVID restrictions
Measures imposed by the pandemic have exacerbated troublesome issues, a major one of which is domestic violence. The province has seen as many women killed or presumed killed by their partners in the last eight weeks as were killed in all of 2020. Nichols expressed disappointment that only $4.5 million extra per year has been allocated for shelters and organizations that support abused women, while the need for them is exploding.
Another issue that has become drastically worse under COVID restrictions is mental health, particularly among young people. Nichols predicts the youth mental health crisis will extend over several years, and she says the current government has responded insufficiently. “Our party advocates for a public psychotherapy program that would improve access to services. We will continue to fight for the establishment of such a program,” she says.
While she expresses disappointment in a number of areas that affect the electoral district of Vaudreuil and the province at large, Nichols says she will keep up the fight. “I will continue to work hard to demonstrate to the CAQ government that our region is full of potential and that our projects are promising.”