LÉVIS — After promising the deepest income tax cut in Quebec’s history on Monday morning, François Legault announced more inflation relief in the afternoon if voters re-elect him on Oct. 3: one-time checks of $400 or $600 to be issued in the fall .
Legault made the second announcement at the end of the day standing in a Lévis grocery store filled with customers shopping for dinner. A total of 6.4 million Quebecers would get the government gravy as the Coalition Avenir Québec continues to bolster what it calls a citizen inflation shield.
Before the end of 2022, a person with annual revenue of less than $50,000 would get a check for $600. Those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 would get $400.
The amount would be determined based on a person’s 2021 income. Revenue Quebec would send the checks automatically. To be eligible, a person would have to be 18 years old and have been residing in Quebec on Dec. 31, 2021. The cost of the measure has been put at $3.5 billion.
Legault insisted the announcement was not a way to buy votes but instead came from the aid of Quebecers. He noted the average cost of groceries today is eight per cent higher than a year ago.
“I think the government has a duty to help Quebecers to face this exceptional increase in costs,” Legault told reporters. “We have the means to do it.”
He acknowledged other parties want to target reductions on essential items or gas but he said he prefers the check formula.
“We prefer to let Quebecers have the freedom to decide,” Legault said.
It is the second time Legault has dangled checks before Quebecers. In the 2022-23 budget last March, his CAQ government gave a check of $500 to taxpayers earning less than $100,000.
The new payment was part of an “anti-inflation shield” promise announced Monday that also includes $7.4 billion of income tax relief. The CAQ is promising a one percentage point cut for the two lowest income tax brackets starting in 2023.
The tax rate in the first bracket (up to $46,295) would drop to 14 per cent from 15 per cent. For the second bracket (up to $92,580), the rate would drop to 19 per cent from the current 20 per cent.
For example, a person earning $80,000 a year would pay $629 less in income tax a year stating in 2023. A person earning $30,000 would get to keep $109 more.
After the first four-year mandate, the two bottom tax rates would continue to drop 0.25 per cent per year, for a total decrease of 2.5 percent points by the 10th year.
“This will help Quebecers keep more money in their wallets,” Legault told reporters at a morning news conference kicking off Day 2 of his campaign. “It’s a first measure in our shield against inflation.”
“I am very proud of this commitment,” added Finance Minister Eric Girard. “It will be the biggest tax reduction in the history of Quebec.”
The cuts stand to benefit 4.6 million taxpayers, he noted.
The money for the cut would come from Quebec’s debt-fighting Generations Fund. The CAQ proposes to reduce annual payments to the fund by 39 per cent to pay for the tax cut.
Legault and Girard both argued that Quebec’s debt situation is more under control than it was when the CAQ took power in 2018. Quebec’s debt-to-GDP ratio is improving and moving closer to the ratio in Ontario. (In her de ella independent pre-election report on Quebec’s finances, auditor-general Guylaine Leclerc noted Quebec is swimming in cash.)
Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade criticized the CAQ plan to reduce payments to the Generations Fund as irresponsible, while at the same time announcing her own plan to reduce the bottom two income tax rates by 1.5 per cent.
A recent Léger poll showed 75 per cent of Quebecers have had to penny pinch, reducing their expenses to cope with inflation.
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