“We were hoping it would go further” – MNA André Fortin
Québec recognizes Outaouais’ under-funding
On October 30, Québec’s national assembly unanimously passed a motion recognizing the Outaouais’ unique challenges as a border region and its unequal share of public funding for health, higher education, and culture in recent years; a situation that has negatively impacted the region’s economic and cultural development. Mathieu Lacombe, Minister Responsible for the Outaouais Region and Papineau MNA, made the motion.
The news comes just over a year after Bertrand Schepper from the Institut de recherche et d’informations socioeconomiques (IRIS) published a study confirming Équite Outaouais’ (EO) theory about drastic under-funding in the Outaouais’ healthcare and related education systems. The study showed that while the Outaouais represents 4.7% of Québec’s population, it only receives 3.5% of the provincial healthcare budget, which amounts to a shortage of about $250 million per year.
EO, an organization that mobilizes Outaouais residents concerned about inequities in health, education and social justice services, approached IRIS to conduct the study in January 2018. The study combined the Outaouais’ five MRCs and compared them with similar regions; Bas Saint-Laurent, Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean, and Mauricie et Centre-du-Québec.
While many have lauded the motion’s adoption as a step in the right direction for addressing the problem, Pontiac MNA André Fortin is a bit disappointed.
“It’s more symbolic than binding. We were hoping it would go further. In fact, as the government refused our amendment, there’s nothing binding in the motion. It’s merely an expression of fact, that the Outaouais is different than many other regions and that in the areas of healthcare, higher education and culture, funding per capita is less than other regions,” he said.
Fortin introduced an amendment requiring the government “to invest by the next budget, using the financial margins made available today, to meet the needs in health, higher education and culture with specific measures dedicated to the Outaouais” but it was refused.
EO supports the motion. “The Outaouais’ [underfunding] has been neglected for too long. This situation makes it difficult for us to develop at the same pace as the other regions of Québec,” said the organization in a press release, noting it is promoting an interregional equity bill that will see all regions of Québec with an equitable level of funding.
“Ultimately, the recovery of the Outaouais will have to be based on an overall plan that will take several years to complete … the motion unanimously adopted by the National Assembly is proof that it’s possible to tackle interregional inequalities and that we can move towards a consensus on the actions [needed] to [address] them,” the press release concluded.