By François Blais
MNA for Charlesbourg and Minister for Employment and Social Solidarity
In response to Françoise David’s text, Les bons pauvres et les autres (The Worthy Poor and the Others), published on April 26
Source: La Presse
In a recent text published in La Presse+, Françoise David rightfully invited political parties in Quebec running in the next election to share their vision and proposals to combat poverty.
The Quebec Liberal Party (QLP) approach has historically been based on three principles.
Robust and inclusive economic development
Economic development is essential to social development. Nothing is possible without it. The Quebec economy is doing much better, and this has a direct impact on Quebecers’ lives.
For example, since Philippe Couillard’s government took office, there are 88,700 fewer unemployed people. What’s more, 46,000 people have left the social assistance system during this period. This situation is unprecedented!
Quebec now ranks second in Canada for its low poverty rate, and economic inequality in Quebec after taxes and transfers remains among the lowest in the industrialized world. Unemployment and social assistance rates have reached an all-time low, while wages are rising faster than anywhere else in Canada.
Well-planned and effective public policies
Economic vitality is essential to—but does not guarantee—generous solidarity. This is why every social democracy establishes a collection of effective and complementary services and redistributive measures. For example, minimum wages that reflect the realities of the labour market.
Add to that progressive tax measures ensuring that the disposable income of low-income employees in Quebec remains the highest after taxes and transfers.
The solidarity tax credit, work premium and family support policy were implemented and have been bolstered by Liberal governments.
These redistributive measures have proven their value. The same goes for recent changes to social assistance by our government that now obliges first-time social assistance applicants without known work limitations to meet an agent and prepare a social reintegration plan. The costs of such programs are elevated, of course, but in times of full employment, they are fully justified.
True freedom for those who have the least
Quebec has adopted a framework law to combat poverty and promote social inclusion. The first two plans developed by Liberal governments helped 140,000 people, mainly families, to permanently rise above the poverty line. This situation is essentially attributable to significant improvements to the family support program and the introduction of the solidarity tax credit.
The third government plan for economic and social inclusion, which I presented last December, will invest close to $3 billion over five years.
Its main goal: permanently lifting more than 100,000 people out of poverty, this time mainly people with disabilities living alone.
To achieve this goal, we will implement the first form of basic income in Canada. A bill to this effect is also under study at this time in the National Assembly. Opposition parties have clearly confirmed their intention to adopt it by the end of the session and I thank them.
This measure, qualified as “progressive” and “a major advancement” by the parliamentary committee, should ultimately make it possible for Quebec to join, for the first time, the leading industrialized nations with the least poverty, a group which includes Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland. No commentator has questioned the plausibility of attaining such a goal as of yet.
The QLP has a very clear plan and a historic target within its reach. Now, what do the other parties have to offer that is as coherent and realistic in terms of poverty? How do they believe they can ensure their plan is successful?