Sat. Feb 24th, 2024

High expectations for the plan to combat poverty in Quebec

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Lauberivière, a shelter for people experiencing homelessness, had nearly 43,500 “bedtimes” in 2022, an increase of 75% in five years.

  • Sébastien Desrosiers (View profile)Sébastien Desrosiers

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As homelessness surges and lines lengthen in front of food banks, the Legault government promises to act. A plan to combat poverty and social assistance reform are expected in the spring. “This is something that will be very, very important,” assures the Minister responsible for Social Solidarity and Community Action.

2023 was a very difficult year in the fight against exclusion, in the fight against homelessness and poverty, notes Éric Boulay, general director of Lauberivière in Quebec. The phenomenon is growing.

Three out of four people who knocked on the shelter door last summer did not ;had never experienced homelessness.

On this cold December evening, the place is busy, once again: nearly 200 people have come to eat.

For a few weeks , listen, we no longer have milk, no more juice, no more bread, deplores Éric Boulay. For me, it's unheard of. I've never seen that in the last 25 years, a big lack of food like that.

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The Minister responsible for Social Solidarity and Community Action, present as part of 'a tour, helps serve meals.

You have to be with the world, not in your office all the time, tells us Gaétan Genest, a regular , after seeing her.

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Chantal Rouleau led a public consultation and visited organizations across Quebec to develop the fourth plan to combat poverty and social exclusion.

Québec granted $8 million to the Food Banks of Quebec (BAQ) last week to help them get through the winter, but Chantal Rouleau wants structuring measures to be put in place over the coming months.

What I am looking for with the plan to fight poverty is to have a food aid game plan to ensure that we do not have to act in the x27;emergency as we had to do.

A quote from Chantal Rouleau, Minister responsible for Social Solidarity and Community Action

This plan that she is developing and which will be tabled in the spring will be the fourth to see the light of day since the adoption of the Law to combat poverty and social exclusion in 2002. The last, presented in 2017 by the government liberal, implemented a basic income program, which came into force in January this year.

Without revealing what the next one will contain, the minister promises that it will be focused on prevention and support, with the objective of reducing poverty.

In 2021, the latest year for which data is available, 439,000 people were in low income in Quebec, according to the Market Basket Measure, or approximately 5.2% of the population.

We have the best social safety net in Canada, says Chantal Rouleau. We are strong, but we don’t pat ourselves on the back. There are people who are in precarious situations. Our desire is to find the means to help these people.

The Collective for a Quebec without poverty is of the opinion that the situation is catastrophic.

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The spokesperson for the Collective for a Quebec without Poverty, Virginie Larivière, calls for measures that will help reduce inequalities social.

Expectations are really very, very high, she said, regarding the anti-poverty plan that Minister Rouleau is preparing. Some of the means undertaken so far to relieve the wallets of Quebecers, such as anti-inflation checks and tax cuts, have completely missed the target, she believes.

When we send anti-inflationary checks to people who have $100,000 in income per year, […] we are not at all in the fight against poverty. So, we expect great political will in the next plan.

A quote from Virginie Larivière, spokesperson for the Collective for a Quebec without Poverty

The government has completely forgotten the poorest in our society.

In addition to her action plan, Chantal Rouleau intends to present in the coming months a modernization of the Social Assistance Act. She had committed to tabling this reform during the last parliamentary session, but the tabling of a bill was ultimately postponed.

There are other things that happened, she justifies. It simply allows us to better refine this bill. […] It was good, it will be very good.

Currently, a single person receives welfare benefits of $770 per month.

It's not a breeze, it's not ideal, maintains the minister, who does not intend to increase them for the moment, knowing that they are already indexed annually.

She suggests it could instead allow people on welfare to work more.

When people are on last resort assistance, #x27;They work more than the equivalent of $200 per month, they get 100% cut [their benefits], explains Chantal Rouleau. This limit, set almost 20 years ago, allows them to work a maximum of three hours per week to supplement their income.

This is not a great incentive to enter the job market, in my opinion.

A quote from Chantal Rouleau, minister responsible for Social Solidarity and Community Action

The Collective for a Quebec without Poverty sees it as a good idea, but calls on Quebec to also increase aid granted.

It's not normal that we let people live on a benefit of $770 per month, argues Virginie Larivière. A room in a rooming house right now is over $900, that's when you find one. So, at the first of the month, people on social assistance are in the red, they can't do it, it's impossible.

I'm not saying that it's ideal at all, but we don't let people down, argues the minister.

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