Social justice, one of the Quebec Liberal Party’s 8 core values, has been at the forefront of Liberal governments’ efforts throughout history.
As Claude Ryan so aptly put it, “For the Liberal Party, the freedom and growth of the individual remain the principal objective of political activity. But an individual can only flourish within a society that offers a great deal but also expects a great deal from the individual. ‘To be a liberal,’ wrote Georges-Emile Lapalme, ‘is to be socially just.’ In other words, to be liberal is to work for both the progress of the individual and that of society.”
The individual cannot reach his or her full potential if society does not enable it. It is the government’s duty to establish the necessary rules to protect the individual while strengthening the development of our society.
Quebec: One of the most egalitarian societies in the world
Quebec stands out from the other Canadian provinces and the other countries of North America due to its unique social model. This distinction took shape during the Quiet Revolution, which was a real turning point for social justice in Quebec, especially with respect to education, health and family welfare.
From that period on, Quebec has made public service a national priority by guaranteeing access to free education for all, establishing a healthcare system initially based on hospital insurance, and taking measures to protect the most vulnerable members of society. In order to support the social and economic development of Quebec, the Liberal Party has chosen to participate in promoting a fairer society that, while being conscious of the virtues of individual initiative, hopes to give everyone the opportunity for self-fulfillment. This commitment has led to the implementation of ambitious policies that make Quebec one of the most egalitarian societies in the world today.
In spite of this, in the 21st century, the challenges our society must face remain immense. The consequences of the 2007-2008 financial crisis put our social model to the test and should lead us to come up with innovative solutions to consolidate our founding principles.
Safeguarding the future
Today, we still have some way to go before we reach the ideal we’ve set for ourselves. Healthcare services must be improved and accessibility strengthened. As concerns our education system, it is our duty to further improve the services offered to youth with learning difficulties in order to keep them in school.
Elsewhere, Philippe Couillard’s government is examining the pertinence of certain social programs in order to combat social marginalization more effectively. A clear-headed look at daily life leads us to conclude that the existing services have not enabled the eradication of “poverty traps,” which is why alternative solutions such as a guaranteed minimum income must be explored.
Therefore, the Liberal Party hopes to lead the avant-garde of political action once again with innovative solutions, breaking away from the out-dated, dogmatic propositions of its political adversaries on questions of poverty. Confronted with the sense of devaluation felt by some of our fellow citizens, such as workers in unstable jobs, it is our duty to perfect social welfare in a constantly changing world.
Only a strong and effective state will allow us to confront the global economy’s ups and downs together. This priority must also lead us to consider the needs of populations outside the job market, such as seniors and the homeless. It is unacceptable that certain older people are falling prey to growing marginalization when they helped build modern Quebec. Finally, we owe it to ourselves to find powerful solutions to promote the reintegration of homeless populations into society.
Social justice also implies making territorial cohesion a major priority for the government. The energy of the cities must be matched by the strengthened competitiveness of surrounding territories and their populations, such as the Aboriginal peoples, who today experience many difficulties concerning social integration and access to public services. More concretely, we believe that a united Quebec must be able to rely on quality infrastructure to bring big cities and rural areas closer to each other.
These are the challenges Philippe Couillard’s government has been tackling since the beginning of its mandate. The priority has been to give ourselves the ability to make choices by regaining a balanced budget. Following the realization of this goal, the government now has the means to reaffirm the importance of the Quebec social model by investing where it counts.
Questions and answers
A: The Gini coefficient is an index of income distribution inequality. In percentage, the Gini coefficient varies between 0, which represents a situation of perfect equality (as if everyone in the observation group had the same income), and 1, which is the situation of perfect inequality (i.e. that total income of the group belongs to a single person).1
In Quebec, the coefficient is 0.292, compared to 0.320 in British Columbia and 0.328 in Ontario. The Canadian average is 0.319. In comparison, the coefficient is only 0.291 in Germany, 0.309 in France, 0.320 in Italy, 0.389 in the United States and 0.457 in Mexico (OECD 2010-2011). In other words, Quebec is equally if not more egalitarian than all these areas. It is, however, less egalitarian than Sweden (0.273), Finland (0.264) and Norway (0.250).2
The income support program has enabled Quebec to distinguish itself in matters of equality and social justice. The investments made for this purpose have been fruitful, and the results show a significant improvement in the situation of low-income people as well as a decrease in income inequality.
- In fact, while the overall rate of low incomes was only 10.8% in Quebec in 2013, it was 14.0% in Ontario, 13.1% in British Columbia and 12.1% across Canada.
- Quebec displays the lowest Gini coefficient compared to Canada and other Canadian regions.
- As for wealth distribution, the ratio between the incomes of the richest people and those of the poorest was 3.9 in Quebec in 2013, compared to 4.8 in Ontario, 4.7 in British Columbia and 4.5 in all of Canada.
These findings allow us to state that Quebec’s income support program is founded on a flexible approach that offers households a basic income while recognizing specific situations, promoting integration into the job market and enabling every Quebecer to contribute to our collective enrichment.
A: Over the past decades, Quebec has equipped itself with a range of initiatives aiming to support households financially. The implementation of these initiatives is a result of societal choices founded on equity and social justice. These values have enabled the creation of an income support program that reflects the financial reality of households. The Quebec program is complemented by federal government initiatives that share the same goals. The income support program has two main goals, namely:
- To give a basic income to the most deprived households and to those with a low income in order to ensure they have an adequate standard of living that promotes rapid integration into the job market
- To promote the incentive to work by encouraging long-term financial autonomy and collective enrichment.
A: The 2015-2016 Support Program for Community Organizations (PSOC) confirms that we never diminished financial support in the community sector. In fact, every year we have indexed the budgets of groups who are with the PSOC program.