With Parliament returning in Ottawa, my thoughts are always on the concerns I heard from Kelowna-Lake Country residents during the summer, and how we can make a difference.
I spoke with many residents over the phone, on doorsteps and at community events. I also met with small business (owners), farmers and (those working with) not-for-profits. Though there are many important issues, what I heard most was about the unmanageable cost of living, including housing, fuel and food costs, and ever-rising inflation.
In the surveys I mailed out in Kelowna-Lake Country this summer, and the thousands of responses I received, the difficulties people face in their ability to live and work daily were made clear. Most people said their food bills have increased more than 20% and filling a gas tank costs $50 more than last year.
Many residents gave specific examples of their situations.
John, who needs his pickup truck for work and said he has good mileage on his truck, is paying $513 a month more for gas than last year. Jeff wrote he is getting close to having to choose between gas or food.
A recently retired nurse wrote: “I am pretty tight with my budget. I have been able to keep my bank account at the same float number. Since March of this year, I have noticed incremental decline in my bank balance to the tune of $400 a month. It doesn't take long on a fixed income to be alarmed in seeing consistent decline."
The government's legislation, Bill C-31, to address affordability falls short of addressing these situations.
While the government has pitched this legislation as both rent relief and a dental care program, a closer reading of its text shows it is neither, and will undermine managing the cost of both.
The legislation bears all the hallmarks of a bill not thoroughly thought through. Looking at rental listings in British Columbia shows the amount proposed would represent not much more than a week's worth of rent. Six out of every 10 renters will not qualify for it.
For the government to call part of the legislation a dental “program” isn’t accurate. It does not propose a program or coordinate with the existing provincial low-income dental care programs. It is an attestation process through the Canada Revenue Agency.
We’ve seen attestations without verifications before. Our constituency office was inundated with people being told they had to pay back CERB, and this could hit families hard if they have a similar claw-back.
The spending involved in the new legislation could worsen the current 40-year high inflation. The benefit evaporates if all other costs continue to rise economists agree.
Robert Kavcic, the senior economist at the Bank of Montreal, talk about the government's proposals said: "We all know that sending out money as an inflation-support measure is inherently…inflationary."
A high-cost, high-spend approach to governing is not how Canadians will see inflation decrease and the cost of living improve. Allowing inflation to rise unchecked, taxing more from Canadians' pockets, circulating it through the government's bureaucracy and then writing cheques that will give only a fraction of it back is no way to proceed.
It is like a family's financial situation is a sinking boat, and they’re thrown a teacup to bail out the water instead of patching the holes.
This is why the Official Opposition put forth the following motion (about plans to raise the Carbon Tax) in the House of Commons earlier this week: “That, in the opinion of the House, given that the government's tax increases on gas, home heating and, indirectly, groceries, will fuel inflation, and that the Parliamentary Budget Officer reported the carbon tax costs 60% of households more than they get back, the government must eliminate its plan to triple the carbon tax.”
I also wish to note that Sept. 30 is National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The Okanagan Heritage Museum is having a special exhibition.
Let us reflect on the significance of the day, on our history and how we move forward with reconciliation.