Quebec has been one of the most progressive provinces so far taking action on poverty. It was the first province in the country to introduce a legislated poverty reduction strategy.
A broad based provincial coalition of individuals and community organizations, the Collective for a Poverty Free Quebec, was vital to getting the law passed as they created a massive petition to support the government’s proposed law, and held public consultations throughout the process. As part of its National Strategy to Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion, in 2002, the Government of Quebec unanimously passed an Act to Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion. The law has been praised for its comprehensiveness and for defining poverty as more than just low income, including lack of “means, choices and power” as poverty indicators. In 2004, the Government of Quebec released its first 5-year action plan on poverty and in May 2010 released its second 2010-2015 action plan Government Action Plan for Inclusion and Solidarity. As of December 2016, the Government of Québec has not indicated plans for successive poverty strategies.
Quebec’s first plan wanted to reduce poverty in the province by half over 10 years, and achieve one of the lowest levels of poverty in the industrialized world by 2013. The plan included:
- Maintaining the Child Assistance and the Work Premium
- Introduction of a refundable Solidarity Tax Credit
- Investing in training and supporting access to employment
- Improving the disposable income of individuals on low incomes
- Supporting local and regional social initiatives
- Increasing access to social housing
This is not just talk from the Quebec government. To achieve its goals Quebec’s plan came with a budget of close to $7 billion over five years, $1.3 billion of it in new investments. It offered accountability through an annual report on its progress from the Minister of Employments office, and it has established an advisory committee.
The second plan outlined four thrusts as guidelines for action. These areas were:
Thrust 1: Review our standard practices and make local and regional communities key players in the decision-making process;
Thrust 2: Acknowledge the value of work and foster the self-sufficiency of individuals;
Thrust 3: Foster the economic self-sufficiency of underprivileged individuals;
and Thrust 4: Improve the living conditions of low-income individuals and families.
One of the outstanding aspects of Quebec’s poverty reduction plan is it’s commitment to human rights. The government claims that it recognizes “that in an inclusive society such as ours, everyone has the right to live with dignity and with a sufficient standard of living according to international standards, and it intends to do everything in its power to attain this goal.”
- The proportion of people living on low incomes in Quebec has dropped from 12% in 2004 to 9.4% in 2009.
- The Government of Québec plans to continue limiting tuition fees over the next four years to the annual indexation of 3% per year
- In May 2015 the provincial government increased minimum wage 20 cents to a general rate of $10.55 an hour
- Quebec’s universal child care system which costs parents approximately $7 a day, returns $1.05 to its government for every $1 invested – and Ottawa recovers 44 cents, even with no direct investment. These returns continue to grow.
Although Québec has considerably reduced its poverty rate over the last decade, the reduction has slowed in recent years. Also, the Government of Québec has made significant cuts to accessible housing. The organization, Le Collectif, cautions that austerity policies are taking from the poor and the middle class, reminding us that 10% of Québeckers cannot meet their basic needs, including welfare recipients.