Ouellette defends Laval’s neediest

“Péquistes not keeping their promises to Quebec’s poor”

By Robert Frank

Chomedey’s representative in the Quebec legislature lashed out last week against the Parti Québécois government’s plan to slash social assistance payments.

“Mr. Speaker, we’ve witnessed the Employment and Social Solidarity minister berate Ottawa about unemployment insurance, while she’s working against Quebec on the welfare front,” Guy Ouellette admonished Agnès Maltais in the provincial parliament, March 14.

Ouellette’s riding contains some of the most impoverished districts in the city of Laval.

“For so long, Chomedey was the poorest riding in the province,” he told The Suburban in an interview. “In the same city, Vimont is the fifth-richest. A lot depends upon who you are and where you are living.”

“Maltais is attacking the most disadvantaged with cuts to social assistance programs,” he said in a statement, the day after his defence of the province’s poor in the National Assembly. “This decision will affect mainly people 55-58, couples with children under five and addiction services recipients.”

“The Parti Québécois is once again saying one thing and doing another,” he continued. “On one hand, she is asking the federal government to cancel employment insurance reform, but on the other, she is doing worse by cutting assistance of last resort.”

“I don’t know whether Maltais is aware of the significant impact that this might have on my region,” Ouellette added.

He underscored the previous, Liberal government’s welfare measures, including indexation of benefits and training programs to reinsert beneficiaries into productive jobs in the province’s workforce.

“The number of social assistance recipients fell from 543,980 in April 2003 to 474,689 in March 2012, a 13 percent decrease,” he recalled. “Moreover, since 2003, 245,000 fewer people are living below the poverty line.”

“During the election campaign, the Parti Québécois had big promises for people in need and made a commitment to organizations not to reduce social assistance benefits.”

“Unfortunately, these promises were not kept and, so far, the PQ government has not proposed any new measures to advance the fight against poverty,” he concluded. “On the contrary, it has slashed the programs!”

He characterized the welfare cuts as “serious social setback” and called on Maltais to abandon the cuts to the poor.

A demonstration was held a week ago Wednesday in front of Quebec Employment Minister Agnès Maltais’ downtown office by the Front commun des personnes assistés sociales du Québec, protesting planned welfare cuts and calling for an increase in the welfare rate. Organizers say those who will be cut include people who receive a $129 a month supplement for temporary limitations. The protesters say Maltais should instead “dramatically increase welfare benefits” to a rate that “really meets people’s needs.”

Robyn Hertz photo

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