Quebec budget calls for new health care charge, tuition increases

University students in Quebec will see new tuition fee increases in 2012 as part of the province’s plan to return to a balanced budget. But how much tuition will rise is still an open question; the province says it it planning to meet with “education partners to flesh out the details of the increase.” The announcement came as part of the provincial budget, released Tuesday.

Tuition has been rising by $50 a semester for Quebec students since 2007, but those increases are set to end in 2012.

The budget includes a one per cent increase in the provincial sales tax, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2012, and a new health care fee, which would be paid by most adults in the province alongside income tax. The fee would start at $25 in 2010 but increase to $200 per year by 2012.

And there could be more. The province is allowing for the possibility of more health care related charges in the future, based on personal use of the health-care system.

Quebec’s finance minister, Raymond Bachand, is projecting a $4.5 billion deficit for 2010 &- 2011, after a $4.3 billion deficit in 2009 &- 2010. But he told the National Assembly that the government hopes to return to a balanced budget by 2013 &- 2014. The province is currently facing a debt of over $160 billion.

The proposed budget includes over $8.2 billion in funding as part of the province’s economic stimulus plan as well as new funding for the arts and money for development and job creation programs in Montreal.

At the same time, the province is taking steps to cap funding increases for the public sector, including a wage freeze for public sector employees.

Quebec’s gas tax will rise, and the province will give the cities of Montreal and Quebec the ability to impose their own gas taxes of 1.5 per cent to help fund public transport. Electricity rates will also rise beginning in 2014.

While the budget has received the support of Montreal’s chamber of commerce, it is already facing criticism from student lobby groups and the Parti Québécois, who have dubbed the new health care fee the “Charest tax.”

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