Governments must help families facing economic precipice

July 28, 2022

Bruske: Mounting evidence of low-income families at grave risk from inflation crisis must be wake-up call to all levels of government

OTTAWA––Canada’s unions are calling on Canada’s governments to take immediate action to increase supports for low-income people as evidence mounts of a growing number of families unable to afford skyrocketing housing, energy and food costs.

“So many are struggling from rising gas and energy prices, high food costs and soaring rents. We are on the cusp of a homelessness crisis,” warned Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. “Low-income Canadians are poised on the edge of an economic precipice. Governments of all levels must act without delay to help.”

In a new report released this week, researchers from the University of Calgary demonstrated how low-income families and individuals are subject to economic risk from rising costs but also political risk from government inaction, as many benefit programs are not indexed to inflation.

“Fall and winter will put even more pressure on struggling families, as energy needs rise and less locally grown food is available which will raise grocery costs. Governments must increase supports and index assistance programs to inflation,” said Bruske. “Doing nothing while costs for essentials skyrocket means thousands more families will be facing extreme economic hardship. There is no time to waste.”

Statistics Canada’s latest CPI report showed food inflation slowing, but still up 8.8% over the past year, far outpacing wage growth or social assistance program support. Additionally, while higher interest rates have slowed the housing market, demand for rental accommodation has increased, leading to rental costs soaring almost 14% since the start of the year.

“A critical lesson learned from the past two years of the pandemic was how supporting low-income people through an economic crisis not only helps them, it strengthens our whole economy,” concluded Bruske. “It is critical that governments not lose sight now of their responsibility to help the people who need it most.”

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