Quebec government unveils surprise economic stimulus package

Mon Oct 7, 2013 3:04pm EDT
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OTTAWA Oct 7 (Reuters) - The government of Quebec announced a C$2 billion ($1.94 billion) stimulus package on Monday aimed at creating jobs and jump-starting the French-speaking province's sagging economy, which has underperformed the broader Canadian economy this year.

Premier Pauline Marois made the announcement amid speculation her separatist government might force a snap election later this year in hopes of turning her minority government into a majority.

She cited growth downgrades by other major economies and said the situation in the United States, where a political deadlock has partially shut down the U.S. government and raised fears of an eventual debt default, as a reminder of how "precarious" the external environment was.

"Our action has become more pressing because of the world economic context," Marois said in a speech unveiling the spending package. "The recovery has been slow to be felt everywhere in the world."

Quebec's economy has contracted in recent months, raising fears it could sink into a recession.

Marois promised four broad strategies aimed at creating 43,000 new jobs by 2017 and triggering investments of C$13 billion over 10 years.

* Use Hydro-Quebec's surplus of electricity to provide reduce electrical tariffs to companies that make major investments.

* Invest in infrastructure, particularly schools, and in sports and recreational establishments.

* Tax credits to stimulate individual and private sector investments.

* Public investments in northern Quebec, particularly in a highway, railroad and social programs.