Pierre Paradis - Cabinet Minister - Minister of Labour, Manpower and Income Security

Minister of Labour, Manpower and Income Security

The Liberals won a majority government in the 1985 provincial election, and Bourassa became premier of Quebec for a second time. There were early rumours that he would appoint Paradis as Minister of Agriculture, but this idea was opposed by the Union des producteurs agricoles. Instead, Bourassa appointed Paradis as Minister of Labour and Minister of Manpower and Income Security on 12 December 1985.

Social assistance policy

Paradis revived a dormant government policy of sending inspectors to the homes of people receiving social assistance in 1986. He said this would reduce the number of erroneous files and likely save the province sixty-eight million dollars in one year. Critics charged that the inspections would lead to invasions of privacy and intimidation. The Ligue des droits et libertés and the Quebec Human Rights Commission strongly opposed the practice, and the Quebec Legal Services Commission argued that mandatory visits were unconstitutional. Paradis responded that the Justice Ministry had determined the visits were legal and that a provincial code of ethics would prevent abuses. Following extensive criticism, the city of Montreal quietly stopped the inspections in January 1988.

Paradis also announced in 1986 that social assistance recipients who owned cottages, boats, second cars, snowmobiles, or houses with more than $50,000 equity would have their rates reduced. While acknowledging that out-of-work adults who had exhausted their unemployment insurance had the right to keep some of their possessions, he added that the government had to set limits on luxury items and that this reform would allow greater payments to the "truly needy."

In late 1987, Paradis introduced further reforms that increased payments for those unfit to work, provided financial assistance to low-paid parents of young children, introduced a tax credit allowing welfare recipients to take minor jobs without jeopardizing their payments, and ended a policy of paying older recipients more than younger recipients. The reforms also required that able-bodied recipients take training, do community work, or accept minor, low-paid jobs; failure to do any of these would result in payment cuts. Paradis argued that the new policy would allow more recipients to enter the workforce; critics argued it would provide a supply of cheap labour for Quebec businesses. A Globe and Mail summary noted that the bill had both progressive and conservative elements.

Construction sector

Paradis introduced legislation in 1986 to create the Commission de la construction du Québec (CCQ) to oversee Quebec's construction sector. The commission was overseen by representatives from labour, management, and the government and was mandated to issue certificates based on competency. Access to the construction trade had previously been determined by work experience, and Paradis said the new system would provide opportunities for younger workers.

Other

Paradis initiated a back-to-work order in March 1986 that ended a strike of 4,200 blue-collar workers in Montreal. The strike affected garbage collection and road repair, and Paradis argued it had created a safety concern; he also charged that the union neglected its responsibility to provide essential services. In June of the same year, he introduced emergency legislation to end a one-day strike of 100,000 construction workers across the province. In 1987, Paradis led cabinet in suspending the right to strike of maintenance workers in Montreal Transit.

Paradis increased the provincial minimum wage from four dollars to $4.75 per hour between 1986 and 1988. He worked to prevent layoffs at the Steinberg grocery chain in 1988.

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