Home Government 44th Parliament of Canada Federal grind on low-income seniors & families continues in new year

Federal grind on low-income seniors & families continues in new year

Time to establish a Guaranteed Livable Income

Monday January 3, 2022 | VANCOUVER ISLAND, BC

Editorial Insights | by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends

The year ahead for the federal Liberal government sees things heading back to normal — other than pandemic management and starting to steer the boat toward practical measures in climate-crisis economic adaptation.

Their approach to fiscal management still favours large corporate enterprise, challenges small business momentum, and the clawback bits and pieces of social supports where they feel it won’t be readily noticed.

Their cumbersome management of the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and Canada Child Benefit (CCB) in 2021 with regard to their clawback on seniors and families who had taken CERB in 2020 is only one example where the political pushback caught fire — both NDP and the Bloc pushed for that to be reversed.

IST, new year
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Seniors Minister mandate letter:

In the case of the GIS debacle, the Seniors Minister has it in her mandate letter to sort that out: “Ensure seniors’ eligibility for the Guaranteed Income Supplement is not negatively impacted by receipt of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)”. But that doesn’t seem to be happening as clean and simple payback to impacted seniors who’ve now gone over half-a-year trying to makes ends meet within their monthly GIS payment.

Rather, a complex paperwork process with each affected senior seems to be underway. This will take months to process for the bulk of the approximately 88,000 impacted seniors. This means, for most, almost a year will have passed by the time they start receiving payments again. There seems to be no government realization that these vulnerable seniors have no fall-back (other than leaning the burden onto friends or family, or to carry credit card or bank debt in order to get by).

GIS & CCB clawback was avoidable, and it’s fixable:

In his New Year’s statement for 2002, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that “everyone has had to make sacrifices to keep each other safe”. But the GIS and CCB clawback was an avoidable sacrifice that is only exacerbating the situation for vulnerable seniors and families — in some cases it will take years for their budgets to recover, if at all.

kamal khera
Seniors Minister Kamal Khera, December 13, 2021 in the House of Commons.

The lack of awareness to act with immediacy in this matter is, frankly, astonishing. It’s a clear example of over-lording and greed. Now it appears that if some seniors receive other social benefits in their own province, the CRA is now planning to clawback the quarterly rebate of climate action and GST rebates.

Perhaps the new style of clawback is part of the Seniors Minister’s mandate to “Work with the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development to provide seniors with a single point of access to a wide range of government services and benefits.”

Political considerations:

A kinder and more realistically-aware approach would be more endearing to the voter. The Liberal government’s approach to the GIS and CCS ‘CERB mishap’ shows a temperament of wanting to adhere to a system that perpetuates poverty.

Perhaps they think the next election is too far away to matter in this regard. Though they’re probably politically astute enough to realize that if the Conservatives were to win a majority government that they’d likely not perform much better in the interests of taking the edge off of distress in the economics of low-income Canadians.

It is not partisan, but simply accurate, to believe that the federal NDP would do things differently, based on their stated policies and leadership directions. They stuck to their guns in voting against the recent C-2 pandemic supports bill precisely because it had a hardened approach toward most of those who continue to struggle. (A patchwork of complex, highly-structured supports were presented to some pandemic-impacted economic sectors, but overall C-2 delivered as if the pandemic was about to end, which it clearly is not.)

Strengthened argument for basic livable income:

Hopefully the dramatic and extensive socioeconomic impacts of the COVID pandemic (now entering its third year) are enough for Canada’s government to seriously and proactively address the need for a basic livable income. So that no one falls between the cracks.

Sadly, there is still a mainstream (or colonial, perhaps) attitude that if you give people ‘easy money’ they won’t work hard and contribute actively to society. Many studies and pilot projects have shown just the opposite … that most recipients use such support as a breather (they wouldn’t need a guaranteed basic income if they weren’t negatively impacted somehow) so they can reorient their lives toward productive success. If people are unable to reorient due to mental health or disabilities, there are other supports in place already to take care of that.

rachel blaney, daniel blaikie
Seniors Critic Rachel Blaney and Finance Critic Daniel Blaikie are leading NDP pressure against federal government to reinstate GIS payments to seniors who took CERB & CRB in 2020.

The concept and request for a basic livable income in Canada is supported by many, including the Senate of Canada, Canada’s NDP, The Green Party of Canada, and the United Church of Canada.

  • The Senate of Canada issued a statement in October 2020, including this in the intro: Far too many Canadians do not experience equal access to protections, resources or opportunities. The result is a less fair, just and cohesive society where efforts focus on reacting to harms and issues rather than on approaches that proactively prevent and work to eradicate inequality and discrimination.
  • The New Democratic Party of Canada says the creation of a guaranteed livable basic income a priority will strengthen our social safety net and finally ensure dignity, security and peace of mind for everyone in Canada. They call it “a livable income when you need it” and at the same time support building Canadian industries and supporting good jobs and opportunities in every part of the country.
  • The Green Party of Canada states it this way: “A Guaranteed Livable Income replaces separate federal and provincial programs with a single, universal, unconditional cash payment delivered through the tax system. Unlike existing support programs, additional income will not be clawed back. People earning above a certain total income will pay the GLI back in taxes.”
  • The United Church of Canada says: Poverty can happen very quickly to anyone…a guaranteed livable income would help address the persistent inequities within our country.

A basic livable income in Canada would also streamline the safety net administrative process beyond what is functioning today, while delivering better (more immediate, less stressful) care to Canadians. And as low-income is directly linked to poor health in many cases, a guaranteed livable income would also likely lead to improved health for many Canadians, allowing for health-care system costs to be spent more efficiently.

randall garrison


Send your comments about the idea or application of Guaranteed Livable Income to letters@islandsocialtrends.com

===== RELATED:

New Year’s Message from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (December 31, 2021)

Huge letdown for low-income seniors as GIS clawback repayment promise drags on (December 16, 2021)

NDP: GIS clawback must end before Xmas (December 13, 2021)

NDP: GIS & CCB clawbacks could be repaid immediately in full (December 8, 2021)