Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard delivered an economic update on Friday regarding the province’s financial situation after the COVID-19 pandemic reached the three month mark.
In a press release, Girard acknowledges the strenuous economic situation many Quebecers are facing today. But the minister believes that the province can overcome the projected deficit through a mobilized population and stable public finances.
“The last few months haven’t been easy and we still have a great deal of work to do, but I’m convinced that we will be able to prepare a post-COVID-19 future where Quebec and its economy will recover the vitality and momentum that characterized it only a few weeks ago,” Girard said in the press release.
Since the end of March there has been unprecedented job loss. The unemployment rate from 4.5 per cent to 17 per cent between February and April. More than 820,500 jobs were lost during that time, according to the statement.
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Girard also notes that the decline in GDP in 2020 will be greater than the decline Quebecers witnessed during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. At this point, he hopes the province can return to December 2019 production levels by December 2021.
Quebec Liberal Party leader Dominique Anglade showed less excitement towards the provincial government’s plan to reinvigorate the economy. In a statement, Anglade said it’s optimistic to count on a 6 per cent growth in the coming year.
She was also shocked by the government’s lack of funds for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in the province. She previously suggested injecting $1 billion into SMEs, but the announcement indicates Girard disregarded her proposal.
“Today, we see once again the absence of specific assistance measures for our small and medium-sized businesses operating in the construction and restaurant sector,” she said on Friday afternoon.
In another statement, Parti Québécois finance critic Martin Ouellet said that despite the odds, Quebec can return to a balanced budget in the near future. He added that the government is capable of implementing more vigorous stimulus measures.
He acknowledged that the province has witnessed a significant and dramatic drop in GDP, but he trusts that the government’s financial forecast will translate into a rapid recovery.
He also believes the Legault government is well positioned to combat the predicted second wave of infections. That should be a top priority, he continued, Quebecers can’t lose sight of the real issue, which is squashing the spread of COVID-19.
“If the eventual revival of COVID-19 is well controlled, not only will the health of Quebecers benefit and the number of deaths be minimized, but, in addition, economic recovery will be accelerated,” said Ouellet.