Quebec's premier has promised Quebecers another cheque to offset inflation — if he gets elected again, that is.
François Legault, speaking in the National Assembly Tuesday, said the province had underestimated the impact of inflation on daily expenses.
The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government recently gave $500 to every Quebecer who filed a tax return and who made less than $100,000, despite experts saying it would contribute to the inflation problem.
"By the end of the year 2022, we will send a new cheque — if we're elected, obviously," he added.
Legault did not specify if the cheque would be for $500 or another amount.
The declaration was met with jeers from opposition politicians in the legislature, who said the measure was little more than an election ploy.
"So he's buying votes. Wow," said Marc Tanguay, the Quebec Liberal MNA for the district of Lafontaine. "François Legault thinks that he can buy votes!"
Tanguay said that isn't the vision of the province that he thinks most Quebecers want.
Québec Solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois asked why the government isn't doing more to address the underlying issues that are putting pressure on Quebecers' pocketbooks.
"Legault is dealing with the cost-of-living crisis like we're dealing with potholes. He's just patching holes," he said.
Nadeau-Dubois asked if the premier was just going to keep sending cheques every couple of months and argued the money would be better spent trying to address the housing crisis.
Treasury Board President Sonia LeBel denied that her government is trying to buy votes with this new measure.
"We're not doing that," she said emphatically. "We are responsible and we have a strategy to address a situation that's real for Quebec."
LeBel said it's clear that the Quebec government needs to step in if inflation continues to rise, and the way her party is offering to do that is by giving people money that they can spend as they see fit.
Community organizations disappointed
Saray Ortiz Torres, a community organizer with Project Genesis, a non-profit anti-poverty agency based in Montreal's Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood, thinks so too.
"[If we have a surplus] why aren't we seeing long-term solutions? Why aren't we seeing the solutions that we need to deal with the housing crisis, to deal with the rise of the cost of living?" she asked. "The only thing that we can think of is that this is just an attempt to get re-elected."
Torres said the government could be building social housing or increasing the amount of money offered through social programs.
"The basic welfare cheque for a single person is $725 a month. And I don't think anyone right now could actually get by or survive just with a little over $700 a month," she said.
"I honestly think that this is an insult to low-income workers, an insult to community organizations all over the province that are underfunded."
WATCH | How much will $500 help Quebecers cope with the rising cost of living?
Tasha Lackman, executive director of the Depot Community Food Centre in Montreal's Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood, said the core issue is that many Quebecers don't earn a living wage.
"We had the biggest month we've had in four months, and at the end of the month it was crazier than ever because people are running out of money," she said.
She said she heard from clients after the first cheque was announced, who said it wouldn't make much of a difference because money was "an issue every single month and this will barely make a dent."
"There's no question that everyone is feeling the increased cost of living. But not all people are feeling it equally," she said.
Lackman said the government should be taking a more targeted approach, or putting that money toward community organizations.
She estimated that only one per cent of the Depot's annual budget came from the government, and said the extra funding would have made a "massive difference."
Instead, the money went to some households who didn't need the help — and didn't pay it forward.
Lackman said the Depot appealed to those who didn't need the money to donate it and received an overwhelming response online.
"[Lots of people] said: 'when the cheque comes in, we're going to make a donation to the Depot, because we don't need it and you will be able to use that money more effectively than us," she said.
"I think a lot of people had really good intentions, but at the end of the day … we only got one cheque that was explicitly a $500 cheque from somebody who said, 'this was my credit and I want the Depot to have it.'"