Wednesday December 8, 2021 | VANCOUVER ISLAND, BC [Updated 12:25 pm & 1:33 pm PT]
Political analysis by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
- Bloc adds voice to GIS clawback issue, puts C-2 under threat (December 8, 2021)
- Liberals again acknowledge GIS clawback issue as NDP keeps pushing (November 30, 2021)
Seniors and families who have been going without previously-received benefits that were clawed back by the federal government this year, could see that money restored right away, says NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
The NDP Leader addressed the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and Canada Child Benefit (CCB) clawbacks in a press conference today from Ottawa (9:30 am Pacific Time) after this week’s regular NDP caucus meeting.
The clawbacks began this summer in response to 2020 tax return calculations that showed CERB/CRB income supports during the pandemic in 2020 as taxable income. The pandemic supports in 2020 were one-time emergency-related income. However, what appears in CRA calculations to be ‘higher income’ in 2020 does not represent a true or actual go-forward income increase for these seniors in 2021.
The loss of GIS is affecting as many as 90,000 low-income seniors who have been doing whatever they’ve had to do in response to losing their federal Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) this year. But many it’s becoming desperate, as they forego or reduce purchases of necessities such as groceries, medication and utility bills, and borrow funds in order to cover the rent.
Families on the brink:
“Many families across the country are on the brink, who are already struggling to get by,” said Singh today. “Many people are unable to make ends meet. We’ve seen an increase in the use of food banks and that is heartbreaking,” he said.
“There are people in our country right now because of clawbacks to their GIS — those are vulnerable seniors, and clawbacks of the Canada Child Benefit, to families, that are not able to put food on the table. That’s a direct result of the Liberal government and Mr Trudeau’s decision to claw back the money that they need to survive,” said Singh.
“Vulnerable seniors and families that are struggling have been targeted by this government,” the NDP Leader said, noting that his caucus had discussed this issue in their Wednesday morning meeting.
“That is callous and that is wrong,” said Singh.
Meanwhile, today during Question Period in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “this Liberal government can always be counted on” with regard to supporting families and seniors.
Today Trudeau reiterated about his government having increased the GIS by 10 percent in 2015 when he first took office as prime minister.
Seniors Minister says they’re working on it:
Around 1 pm today (Pacific Time), Island Social Trends received this quote from the Honourable Kamal Khera, Minister of Seniors:
“We know just how challenging this pandemic has been on seniors – but every step of the way – our government has always been there to support seniors by strengthening their GIS. We moved quickly to provide immediate and direct financial support to seniors. When it comes to CERB/GIS – we know it has been hard on some seniors this year. We are working on this issue to find the right solution to support those affected.”
The ‘right solution’ still implies having to sort out around the fact that CERB/CRB was stated from the start as taxable income, but that the government still wants to be helpful. Avoiding complications in future as to calling something taxable then giving it back, is a challenge for sure. It does fall short of the NDP saying that GIS arrears from August 2021 forward should be repaid in full.
Immediately repay the full amount:
How the government expects these low-income seniors to cope for a full 12 months (August 2021 through July 2022) has never been articulated by the Liberals.
The NDP is asking that the government “immediately end the clawbacks and absolutely these families and seniors should not be worse off because they needed help in the pandemic”.
What should the resolution look like? “They should receive the full amount of payment that they were supposed to receive this year, absolutely. And that could be done immediately. There’s no reason for delay, for this government to push this off. They could immediately fix this problem,” the NDP Leader said today.
In September, the Parliamentary Budget Officer told the NDP that taking the CERB (and the subsequent CRB) out of the equation used to calculate GIS would cost the government $380 million this year and $58 million next year. In the big picture, these are small numbers within the scope of the federal government’s pandemic management.
Seniors age 60+ are eligible for the non-taxable GIS if their income is below $19,248 (if single, widowed, or divorced) or below $25,440 (if their combined income with a spouse or common-law partner where the full Old Age Security/OAS pension is received, or below $46,128 if the partner does not receive OAS).
Fiscal update and Bill C-2:
The fiscal update coming December 14 is an opportunity to tackle inflation during the pandemic economic recovery, Singh said today.
As well, Bill C-2 An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19 (which the Liberal minority government hopes to pass ahead of the Christmas break on December 17) includes a range of proposed actions.
Cost of living:
The NDP says the cost of most things is going up in Canada, but highlighting that housing is one of the biggest drivers of inflation. All of that creates a significant challenge to overall affordability for Canadians.
And on the matter of providing connectivity for all Canadians, Singh today explained that cell phone and Internet fees should be capped immediately (based on an average of OECD countries, as has been done in the USA and Australia) and further regulated through allowing smaller enterprises to use existing Internet infrastructure upon which they could offer lower fees. cell phone and Internet bills in Canada are the second-highest in the world. The telecoms in Canada have “had a free ride” for too long, says Singh. This intention to regulate cell phone and Internet rates was part of the NDP election platform in August 2021.
As reported recently by national media, a recent survey of the big telecoms showed that, on average, complaint calls to the big telecoms (e.g. Rogers, Shaw, Bell, and TELUS) were up nine percent this year, with the highest level of complaint seen at Rogers (mostly about billings and fees).
[See archive of GIS articles and reader letters here or scroll down to the bottom of this article]
===== ARCHIVE of GIS LETTERS & ARTICLES:
NDP: federal government could restore GIS & CCB arrears in full (December 8, 2021)
Bloc adds voice to GIS clawback issue, puts C-2 under threat (December 8, 2021)
Liberals again acknowledge GIS clawback issue as NDP keeps pushing (November 30, 2021)
NDP calls for emergency debate around low-income family & seniors clawbacks (November 24, 2021)
NDP rolls into 44th Parliament with priorities to help people (November 22, 2021)
Restoring GIS & Canada Child Benefit important for low-income islanders (November 18, 2021)
LETTER: Losing GIS means needing help to pay the rent (November 17, 2021)
Seniors Minister weighs in on what NDP calls GIS clawback (November 8, 2021)
NDP requests immediate government action to reverse GIS clawback (November 3, 2021)
LETTER: senior faces potential eviction due to GIS clawback (Oct 27, 2021)
LETTER: GIS clawback continues after election (October 19, 2021)
LETTER: GIS clawback means food vs rent (September 19, 2021)
NDP candidate mojo: we fight for you (September 19, 2021)
LETTER: GIS clawback means no bus pass (September 13, 2021)
LETTER: Hurting seniors with GIS clawback (September 5, 2021)
LETTER: Retired & depending on GIS (August 19, 2021)
LETTER: Suddenly losing Guaranteed Income Supplement by receiving CERB (August 10, 2021)
Seniors who took CERB now losing GIS supplement & other benefits (August 4, 2021)
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