The goal of the scholarships is to help address the province's labour shortage by incentivizing people to enter certain fields.
The government has identified six in-demand sectors. These are health and social services, education, early childhood education and care, engineering, information technology and construction.
The scholarships will only be available to students enrolled full-time in programs in these targeted areas of study. Qualifying students will get the money "after each successful full-time session," the Ministry of Finance says.
As a result of the $1.7 billion investment, "students will be able to obtain up to $9,000 at the college level, $15,000 at the university level for a three-year program and $20,000 for a four-year program, after completing their training."
"The Quebec economy is currently experiencing an exceptional recovery thanks to the mobilization of Quebecers and a successful vaccination campaign," Quebec Minister of Finance Eric Girard said in a statement.
"The significant improvement in public finances allows us to help Quebecers cope with the cost of living and to act to accelerate economic growth by addressing labour shortages and stimulating business productivity."
The provincial government has made efforts to persuade Quebecers to choose one of these in-demand sectors as a career. In May 2021, for instance, the government announced a massive investment in an IT training program that will pay participants $650 per week.
On December 6, the government added a slew of new internships and student employment opportunities, with many of them related to the targeted sectors.
In addition to the scholarships, Girard announced a new benefit to help low and middle-income Quebecers with an increasing cost of living.
The benefit will give $275 to people living alone and $400 to couples who qualify for the Quebec solidarity tax credit.
The benefit is part of a larger investment package that also includes a $215-million increase in the refundable tax credit for child care expenses, $1.2-billion for creating 37,000 new subsidized child care spaces and an $800-million plan for reducing the province's waitlist of surgeries.
Quebec announced a slew of new COVID-19 rules on Monday, including the suspension of elementary and high school classes as of Tuesday, December 21. Quebec universities and cegeps, meanwhile, can continue with final exams and internships, Health Minister Christian Dubé confirmed.
"The explosion of cases is incredible," the minister remarked at the opening of a press conference about the new regulations.
He said that despite the province's effort to expand COVID-19 vaccine booster shot eligibility, additional restrictions were needed in the short term to curb the latest wave of infections.
Adult and professional training centres will also close as of Tuesday.
Elementary schools will remain open until the holiday break only to distribute rapid test kits and facilitate the vaccination campaign for children.
Daycares will remain open for families who need them, Dubé said.
Moreover, schools will not be able to resume in-person classes until January 10. Schools that begin their 2022 semesters before then will have to conduct classes remotely.
Among the other measures announced by Quebec Monday are the closure of bars, gyms, theatres and concert halls, and the reintroduction of a work from home order.
Amateur and professional sports events will also have to take place without audiences.
"It is no longer time for caution and vigilance; we must act now to avoid the worst," Dubé said in a press release.
"Although our high vaccination rate is an asset, Quebec will not escape what is happening elsewhere with the progression of the Omicron variant. The actions of each of us will have consequences in the weeks to come."
The return to in-person classes will be postponed until January 10. Any classes before January 10 will have to take place remotely.
Elementary schools will remain open strictly for the distribution of rapid tests and the vaccination of children.
Daycares will also remain accessible until the holiday break for parents who need them, Dubé said.
Otherwise, starting at 5 p.m. on Monday, December 20, the provincial government is closing bars, taverns, casinos, cinemas and concert halls. Gyms and spas are also ordered to close for everything but personal care services.
This new list of health rules comes just days after the government announced an initial set of regulations that included 50% capacity limits for bars and many venues. Those rules came into force on Monday but will be trumped by the new rules taking at 5 p.m.
Remember when Premier François Legault said we'd be able to be 20 people for indoor private gatherings during the holidays? That plan died out too with the emergence of the Omicron variant. Indoor private gatherings will continue to be limited to 10 people.
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As part of a long list of new Quebec COVID-19 rules, high school, cegep and university students won't return to in-person learning until January 10 following their winter breaks.
High schools previously scheduled to reopen in the week of January 3 will have to return to remote learning between then and January 10, Premier François Legault said.
Cegeps and universities previously scheduled to resume classes after January 10 following the winter break will of course be able to stick to those dates.
Elementary schools, meanwhile, will reopen as scheduled, even if that's before January 10. Legault said keeping elementary schools open has been a priority for his government and, moreover, that in-person attendance supports the vaccination campaign for children.
Among the other new health measures announced Thursday is a 50% capacity limit in bars, restaurants, stores and other venues, as well as a ban on karaoke and dancing. These rules will take effect on Monday, December 20.
The government is also cancelling plans to expand private gathering capacity to 20 fully-vaccinated people as of December 23. Instead, Quebecers will only be able to have a total of 10 people in their homes for the upcoming holidays.
"I know Quebecers are sick of this," Legault said at a press conference.
"Since the start, for 21 months, Quebec has been one of the places where the restrictions have been the most severe. We’re going to continue to do this. We’ll continue to make sure we react quickly. We put our pride aside."
National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda also sympathized with burnt-out residents.
"We do understand that people are tired," he added.
"The problem is the virus is not tired and it's coming back. And this is a problem and it's the epidemiology that makes us take those decisions that we don't like. We would prefer to be in another situation, but the virus is still fighting us."
"We're specifically looking at Montreal," Dubé told Paul Arcand of 98.5 Wednesday, adding that he spoke to Regional Public Health Director Dr. Mylène Drouin earlier in the morning.
The news comes amid growing concerns about the Omicron COVID-19 virus variant. At least two Montreal schools have closed due to student or staff infections with the variant.
Dubé said Tuesday that local public health officials had concluded that Omicron is more transmissible than other forms of the virus, but that it was still unclear whether it produced more intense symptoms.
On 98.5, the minister once again called on Quebecers and their children to get vaccinated.
The province on Tuesday announced plans to make free rapid COVID-19 tests available at pharmacies beginning Monday, December 20, and asked residents to work from home to limit contacts and prevent the spread of Omicron.
Dubé wouldn't tell Arcand whether the government foresees new health measures or lockdowns. Reports indicate that the federal government, meanwhile, is considering new international travel rules or advisories.
Canada has already instituted on-arrival testing for all international air travellers coming from countries other than the United States. Fully vaccinated travellers have to quarantine until they receive a negative test result.
As cases rise, Quebec is still set to increase the private gathering capacity for fully vaccinated residents from 10 to 20 people on December 23.