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Debt reduction to be focus of Quebec provincial budget on March 27

Last Updated Mar 14, 2018 at 5:40 pm EDT

Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao, left, responds to reporters' questions as Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard looks on at the National Assembly in Quebec City, Wednesday, March 14, 2018. The Quebec government will present a budget speech on March 27. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

QUEBEC – Paying down Quebec’s massive debt will be the focus of this month’s provincial budget, Premier Philippe Couillard said Wednesday.

Finance Minister Carlos Leitao will table the budget March 27.

The two politicians said the government intends to introduce measures to reduce the province’s debt by $10 billion over five years by dipping into a special fund that was created in 2006.

The province believes it will save $1 billion in interest payments.

Couillard said it was important to send a strong message to Quebec’s creditors long before the budget is actually tabled.

“We want the credit rating agencies to hear this as a stand-alone message in the media instead of having it get lost in the budget,” the premier told reporters.

Quebec’s debt-to-GDP ratio of 51.9 per cent is estimated to fall below 50 per cent next year and hit 45 per cent in 2022-23, compared with 2025-26 as originally projected.

The budget will be Leitao’s fifth since he became finance minister and will be the last before the Oct. 1 provincial election.