The Project Genesis community organization in Côte-des-Neiges deplores Employment Minister Agnès Maltais’ proposed changes to social welfare.
Members of the organization demonstrated during their lunch hour last week to deliver bags of potatoes to the minister’s office in downtown Montreal, taking part in the “Madame Maltais, vous êtes dans les patates” (Mrs. Maltais, you’re out to lunch) campaign started by the anti-poverty organization Collective for a Poverty-Free Quebec.
Project Genesis disagrees with the reform, saying that it will only further impoverish those in need of welfare in Quebec.
“It was to show her that we are completely in disagreement with her decision to cut the incomes of certain people on welfare,” said community organizer Cathy Inouye in an email.
In an attempt to make their stance clear, members of the organization attached messages to the delivered potatoes that they believe sum up the current situation.
On one bag was attached a message saying “Choosing between heating or eating” and another said “After paying rent, there isn’t ever enough money for food and medicine”.
According to Inouye, the person who met them at Maltais’ office wasn’t surprised by the potatoes, telling them that he had already received many others.
Project Genesis’ opinion is shared by many organizations in Quebec, and Maltais is no stranger to being on the receiving end of a backlash since introducing the reform. In April a day of demonstrations took place in Quebec, Montreal, Sherbrooke, Saguenay and Rimouski.
Individuals who are deemed to have temporary limitations to entering the workforce currently receive an additional $129 per month on top of their base amount of welfare of $604 per month.
According to the Montreal Public Health Department, that current allowance barely covers 50 per cent of essential needs for people living alone and 76 per cent for families with children.
With the reform, as of Oct. 1, couples with a child under five will no longer receive the $129 allowance on top of the $604, with some exceptions.
Also, as of
July 1, the age limit for receiving the allowance for stress due to age will be raised from 55 to 58, and it will be harder for individuals who use residential addiction-treatment programs to have access to payments.
“These regulatory changes will result in the loss of an additional allowance for certain people in need,” said Project Genesis’ Florence Richer.
“The minister has chosen to abandon people who are already in a survival situation,” she said.
Agnès Maltais could not be reached for comment on the situation.
Photo: Jesse Feith