Home Government 44th Parliament of Canada NDP calls for emergency debate around low-income family & seniors clawbacks

NDP calls for emergency debate around low-income family & seniors clawbacks

Rising to the moment, fighting for the people in the people's House.

Wednesday November 24, 2021 at 11 am | VANCOUVER ISLAND, BC [Updated 3 pm Pacific Time – this issue was brought up in Question Period; updated November 30, 2021]

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends


There’s no room before Christmas for the House of Commons to address the clawback of Canada Child Benefit (CCB) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). That’s because the four priorities set by the Liberal government yesterday has set a packed agenda for the short session November 24 to December 17, before the House breaks for the winter holiday period.

Jagmeet Singh, Nov 2021
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh addressed reporters after his caucus meeting with MPs on November 24, 2021. [CPAC]

“I’m deeply concerned that there’s nothing to address those two problems,” said Jagmeet Singh in a press conference from Ottawa today (9 am Pacific time). | Listen to the November 24, 2021 press conference on YouTube.

Unless of course an emergency debate can be held about it, says the federal NDP.

Meanwhile, Singh raised GIS issue in the House today: [Update in blue]

Today NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh had a moment during Question Period to make a real difference for Canadians. He asked the Prime Minister to make a commitment to ending the clawback of GIS and CCB:

“Right now, this government is cutting the help that vulnerable seniors and families need. They are cutting the GIS and cutting the Child Benefit while vulnerable seniors and families are struggling to put food on the table, they are struggling to keep their homes, because they cannot afford the rent. The prime minister can fix this today. Will the PM today commit, to ending the clawbacks of GIS and ending the clawbacks of the child benefit and stop hurting vulnerable seniors and families.”

Good news for low-income Canadians! Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded, including that his government is looking at what can be done to rectify the clawback situation.

“We put the CERB in place to help people at the height of the pandemic. We know it’s having an impact on the most vulnerable now. Ministers are actively working to come to the right solution to support vulnerable Canadians,” said Trudeau.

Trudeau prefaced his comments by “thanking the leader of the NDP for continuing to stand up for Canadians as we endeavour to do on this side of the house. I look forward to working with him on issues such as this.”

Local MP Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan-Malahat-Langford) told Island Social Trends afterward that “the more you bring this pressure to bear, it comes to a critical mass”. The NDP has been pressing for reversal of the GIS clawback since early August of this year. In his riding, MacGregor has heard from many constituents. “Seniors are suffering, and it’s very real,” MacGregor said today from Ottawa, after Question Period.

jagmeet singh, peter julian
It was one of those moments in politics where you know the process works… NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh putting a direct question to the prime minister about the GIS and CCB clawbacks, and might just stick. [Nov 24 2021]
alistair macgregor
Alistair MacGregor, MP (Cowichan-Malahat-Langford) says seniors in his riding have been impacted by the GIS clawback.

Requesting an emergency debate:

Today, the NDP’s Critic for Seniors, Rachel Blaney (North Island-Powell River) and the Critic for Employment and Workforce Development, Daniel Blaikie (Elmwood Transcona), sent a letter to the Speaker of the House of Commons proposing an emergency debate on the cuts that are hurting seniors who have relied on receiving GIS until receiving Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) payments in 2020 caused them to lose their GIS for a full year (July 2021 to June 2022).

“Seniors in Canada have faced difficult challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, with the pandemic still ongoing and the cost of living rising, the Liberal government is turning its back on our most vulnerable seniors by cutting the Guaranteed Basic Income (GIS) that they rely on to pay their bills and buy groceries,” said the NDP in a statement.

Today, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said: “These seniors are worse off now than they were before the pandemic, and it should not be this way.”

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.

“An Emergency Debate is required in order to allow parliamentarians to bring the stores of those affected to the attention of the government and press the Ministers responsible for those income support programs for a plan to assist these financially vulnerable Canadians before they lose their homes. In many cases, GIS and CCB benefits were reduced as early as July 2021 and the negative impacts of those cuts is already being felt,” says Blaikie.

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Seniors discount at OakTree Naturals in Langford

As for timing, while seniors and families waited: “While the benefits were cut some time ago, the Prime Minister’s early election call and long delay in recalling the House has prevented this deplorable situation from getting the airing it deserves in our House of Commons until now, and I am therefore raising it at the earliest opportunity.”

Almost 90,000 seniors impacted:

Almost 90,000 of Canada’s poorest seniors, many of whom are facing eviction after being disqualified for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), or had their benefit payments significantly reduced, as a result of accessing pandemic income support programs like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB).

Many low-income families likewise find themselves in challenging circumstances as their Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payments were reduced after accessing pandemic benefits. Island Social Trends has been receiving letters about the GIS clawback for a few months now.

“There are 90,000 seniors in Canada who are now at risk of homelessness and hunger looking for answers from the government that promised to have their back, but instead cut their supports,” said Blaney. “The Liberal government cannot punish some of the most vulnerable members of our community for taking the help they needed. We are calling for an emergency debate so we can come together and urgently find a solution to this problem.”

First two requests were ignored – August 3 and November 2:

Back on August 3 (ahead of the election), the NDP sent a letter to the Liberal government alerting them to this problem, and another letter on November 2 requesting reversal of the GIS clawback. “Instead of finding a solution, they turned their backs on seniors and called a federal election,” says Blaney.

letter, blaikie, house of commons, emergency debate
Letter from the NDP requesting an emergency debate on the clawback of Guaranteed Income Supplement and Canada Child Benefit, Nov 24, 2021.

In the four months since New Democrats brought this issue to their attention, the government has made no progress and seniors have become even more desperate.

“While Justin Trudeau was more than happy to hand out millions in subsidies to big corporations during the pandemic with no strings attached, he is punishing seniors who took the benefits they qualified for,” said Blaikie. “We have repeatedly asked the Liberal government to resolve the issue, but they have failed to act. Our seniors cannot afford to wait any longer.”

Continuing the fight:

New Democrats are committed to pushing the government on this issue until a solution is found.

“These are people that need our help, and so far the Liberal govt has not mentioned anything about it in the Throne Speech nor have they mentioned it in any of the bills they’re proposing to fix this problem,” said Singh in response to an Island Social Trends question this morning.

“They’ve not proposed to fix this problem. So this is something that we’re going to continue to push for,” the NDP Leader said.

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===== RELATED:

Restoring GIS & Canada Child Benefit important for low-income islanders (Nov 18, 2021)

LETTER: losing GIS means needing help to pay the rent, and many other GIS-related links (Nov 17, 2021)

44th parliament: NDP to take on housing, GIS & CERB amnesty within affordability, also climate crisis (Nov 9, 2021)