Bill n°173 : An Act mainly to introduce a basic income for persons with a severely limited capacity for employment
Who can be against a law that increases the income of people in great need? This is the great skill of this project which does not lend itself easily to criticism by using deceptive language for ideological purposes.
I refuse to play the game. I will use Deserving Income, which I will explain after summarizing in a few words what Basic Income really means. The Basic Income is a monthly payment allocated to all without conditions. Everyone gets the same amount whether they work or not. The goal is to provide everyone with the economic security necessary to live with dignity and take full advantage of the opportunities offered by Québec society.
Minister Blais is using a buzzword while completely evading its meaning. With Bill 173, it is the consecration of the detestable concepts of deserving poor and undeserving poor. The deserving poor (hence deserving income) is the one who presents severe constraints to employment, who is obviously unable to provide for his basic needs because of illness, disability, etc., and who is not able to work. Public opinion wants to help these people, and it is only these deserving poor who benefit from additional income under Bill 173.
It is misleading to consider Earning Income as an amount of money. With the new law, the Ministry adopts the concept of the poverty line, a level of income below which one is considered poor and above which one is not poor. It is the MBM (Market Basket Measure) that has been used, rightly or wrongly, regardless of whether there is agreement on the minimum required to live in dignity. After a 5-year transition period, it is at this total level of income that all social assistance recipients who are unemployable will be placed. The Deserving Income will be adjusted so that all deserving poor reach it, without exceeding it. So it's not an amount you can count on. It is rather a variable way to reach a target, a ceiling.
Any means are good to crush even the deserving poor. The new law preseves the penalty for living with a partner. On page 1 of the regulatory intentions the document refers to individual payments. This is a big improvement on one payment per household. It is worth hammering this point home and demanding that this practice be extended to all government payments.
On page 2, there is the actual calculation of the monthly payment:
1 adult: $1025 + $369 = $1394
2 adults: $1394 X 2 = $2788? No!
2 adults: $1025 X 2 = $2050, 26.5% less
Today, the social solidarity programme, for recipients unable to work, provides for:
1 adult: $962
2 adults: $962 X 2 = $1924? No!
2 adults: $1438, 25.3% less
Going from 25.3% less to 26.5% less is a step backwards.
For me, this settles the case of the government's intentions on individuality, a fundamental characteristic of any basic income.
To better understand the insidious effect of the MBM on the undeserving poor, whose fate is settled in a few paragraphs, let us look at the inconsistency with which their case is handled. While for the deserving poor, the target is 100% of the MBM, the undeserving poor increase from 53% to 55% of the MBM. Just like the deserving poor, capped at 100%, the undeserving poor is capped at 55%. To justify this lower mark, the concept of "immediate needs" is evoked without defining them.
The truth is that we want to punish the undeserving poor to nourish popular prejudices and ensure the support of the Deserving Income (under a trendy name when in fact it only to increases social assistance to acceptable people). This law cleverly and odiously supports the view that the undeserving poor are responsible for their condition because of their supposed laziness and so-called immorality.
" When you elect as a society to create baseline quality of life for everyone, you’re not doing that because you’re attempting to discourage productivity or social cohesion, both of which come naturally to people anyway, but because you’re trying to create a society which overall values all people equally. You can’t get there by trying to transform the people you don’t value into people you’re willing to value." Elizabeth Bruenig. The Undeserving Poor: A Very Tiny History.