NEWS

Quebec budget date set for March 20

03/06/2012 09:47 EST | Updated 05/06/2012 05:12 EDT

Quebec's finance minister Raymond Bachand said he will bring down the 2012 provincial budget on March 20, more than a week before the federal budget is scheduled to be released.

This could be Bachand's last budget before going into an election campaign, but the finance minister said that is not what he's dwelling on these days.

"I see you're smiling," Bachand told reporters at the national assembly. "But this is a budget of continuity."

He said building a budget with virtually no new money takes a great deal of creativity, and because money is so tight, there will be no splashy announcements.

Balanced budget by 2014

The plan is to continue to tighten spending in order to present a balanced budget once again by 2014.

Bachand predicts by the following year, Quebec should be running a $2 billion surplus, which will go toward paying down the province's substantial debt.

"It's a budget that makes sure, essentially, that we build on our strengths," said Bachand. "What Quebecers are asking is that we come back to a balanced budget, but to sustain the economy and build prosperity."

He said the budget will include new worker training programs and added services for older Quebecers.

Hunt for tax cheats pays off

One of the less 'creative' ways the province is clawing its way out of debt is by knocking on the doors of tax cheats.

Hundreds of additional agents with Revenue Quebec are hunting down and charging businesses and individuals who fail to pay their fair share.

The head of the revenue agency says the crackdown is hauling in an additional $3 billion this year alone -- at very little cost to the province.

"It's costing us 4 or 5 cents to recover every unpaid tax dollar," said Jean St-Gelais, the head of the Quebec revenue ministry's board of directors. That is one way the government hopes to convince Quebecers they are the best stewards of public finances and the economy.

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