Statement by Karla Bernard, Official Opposition Critic for Social Development and Housing, on the increase to some social assistance program allowances
Last week, some new increases to social assistance allowances came into effect, including increases to optical, funeral, and pregnancy food allowances and the expansion of some shelter supports for people with disabilities. The Official Opposition Green caucus has been a consistent and vocal advocate for ensuring our social programs take care of the most vulnerable. We are pleased to see these limited increases.
However, I am concerned by what the Minister is framing as a targeted basic income guarantee.
A basic income guarantee is unconditional and would be available to every Islander not having a basic level of income to meet their fundamental human needs. Simple top-ups to existing allowances based on complicated eligibility rules and policies do not constitute a basic income guarantee. In fact, the $2.3M budget investment to extend the secure income pilot program falls short of investments in tourism or tax cuts for businesses.
The King government’s interpretation of its efforts is typical conservative spin that draws attention away from government’s lack of progress on establishing a full, Island-wide basic income guarantee with the support of the federal government.
We are concerned the King government is okay with announcing a pilot designed to not meet all the basic human needs of those participating. By government’s own admission, these are not people who have the option of earning the additional dollars to fill in the gap. By setting a target that only provides 85% of what a person truly needs, the King government seems content with forcing individuals to decide between a roof over their head, food on their table, medicine for their health, or other monthly necessities. A basic income guarantee means a person’s fundamental human needs are guaranteed to be met.
Finally, it is important for Islanders to see the actual criteria, details, budget, and reporting government is using for its pilot. To this end, my colleagues on the Public Accounts Committee have requested that government urgently provide this very important information needed to assess the eligibility conditions, quality, and outcomes of the secure income program.
Karla Bernard, MLA Charlottetown-Victoria Park
Official Opposition Critic for Social Development and Housing