Montreal

Welfare changes on the horizon

Anti-poverty groups and the Parti Québécois opposition say amendments to Liberal welfare reforms do little to improve the lives of Quebec's poorest people.

Anti-poverty groups and the Parti Québécois opposition say amendments to Liberal welfare reforms do little to improve the lives of Quebec's poorest people.

Employment Minister Claude Béchard announced the changes in his controversial Bill 57, which the government intends to pass into law before the end of the year.

Bill 57, the Individual and Family Assistance Act, is the Liberals plan to fight poverty and reward people who re-enter the workforce.

Costly endeavour

The government is going to give some welfare recipients even more money through higher annual indexation increases, Béchard says. The move could cost Quebec an extra $14 million every year.

"We are keeping this door open," Béchard says. "The door was closed and now we open the door to indexation."

Bill 57 establishes a minimum monthly payment of $533. That amount wouldn't change, even if someone turns down a job or doesn't try to get a job.

The added increases will be available only to about 40 per cent of welfare recipients—those deemed unable to work.

Even though welfare payments remained frozen under the PQ, the party is critical of the Liberal indexation scheme.

"We weren't voted against for nothing," PQ welfare critic Camil Bouchard says, referring to the April 2003 Liberal sweep to power in Quebec. Bouchard says the Liberal plan will create instability for the poorest Quebecers trying to make ends meet.

"People won't know how much they'll get to cover their essential needs," Bouchard says.

The government is also dropping a compulsory "rental trust" for welfare recipients who've repeatedly failed to meet their rent. Now, the trust will be optional.

now