The Suburban – February 4, 2015

The Suburban“There’s still time,” says Clement Citeya of the Comité des Personnes Assistées Sociales de Pointe-Saint-Charles (CPAS). Still time that is, for the province to reconsider its welfare reforms that the groups calls counter-productive and shows “shocking contempt for welfare recipients and are based on a false understanding of the welfare system.”

Quebec is applying its austerity belt cinching to welfare rolls as well, affecting many of the nearly half-million Quebecers receiving social assistance.

CPAS along with Côte-des-Neiges based Project Genesis and other groups held a press conference last week to denounce the changes and Employment Minister François Blais’ “spreading false ideas rather than dealing with real social assistance issues.”

Quebec will begin cutting benefits to anyone outside the province for more than 15 days per month; slash benefits for those living in a property above a certain value, and decrease assistance for those with more than one roommate; and for those with modest levels of earned income. That last one is especially misdirected says David Régnier of ATD Quart Monde, and is actually a disincentive for recipients to integrate into the workforce. “Returning to work is therefore penalized rather than being encouraged. If Québec really wants to support social assistance recipients in their work integration efforts, it should increase the allowable work income of welfare recipients, which would be a simple and inexpensive measure.”

Some 127,000 Montrealers (including 50,000 children) live on social assistance according to a statement by the coalition, adding that many people find themselves on welfare rolls due to medical condition or disability, and experience ongoing barriers including “lack of jobs, low schooling levels, reading difficulties, limited professional experience, inaccessible work sites and linguistic barriers.” Most will likely receive “as little as $616 a month to deal with all their expenses including housing – this is not nearly enough to survive on,” stated Bénoît Racette of Ex-Aequo.

The group counters that individuals who receive the most support are those able to leave social assistance in the greatest numbers.

Quebec says a very small amount of recipients would be affected by the changes to the property and roommate rules, and is also including a $200 benefit for recipients living in a recognized rehabilitation centre, along with extra benefits to ensure they maintain their housing.

Joel Ceausu