QUEBEC CITY — It’s that time of year again. Quebec’s Finance Minister is putting the finishing touches on his provincial budget. And welfare is on the chopping block.
“The question is not to make big changes, but just to improve some difficulties, some actual difficulties in the program,” said Employment and Social Solidarity Minister François Blais.
The minister said he will tighten rules for the province’s 300,000 welfare recipients. He is expected to limit travel and slash benefits for recipients with high-value homes. In all, Blais hopes to save about $15 million.
PQ leadership candidate Bernard Drainville said Tuesday the Liberals are being counter-productive.
“We should not penalize women, we should not penalize children, we should not penalize lovers, we should not penalize sick people and we should encourage people to go back to the labour force,” Drainville said.
The PQ argued the face of poverty is changing and more Quebecers working part-time are using food banks. The party noted Quebec lost 35,000 full-time jobs since the Liberals came to power.
“Between now and 2017, we’ll need 725,000 people in the workforce,” Premier Philippe Couillard responded at a press conference marking the end of a two-day caucus meeting. “That’s the big paradox: there are people who are not working, still, but we have companies all over looking for employees with the right qualifications, and this is the structural issue we’re going to go after.”
The Liberals expect more protests this spring, but they ask that opponents remain respectful.
“I think it’s good that they have different positions but I hope that everyone will have the same tone, a tone of respect. That is something that is also normal in a democracy,” said Jean-Marc Fournier, the Liberal House Leader.
No date has been set yet for the provincial budget. The Liberals said they still need to find one billion dollars.