Montreal – Almost seven million people in Canada do not have stable access to sufficient food. Recent increases in food, rent, energy, and transportation prices have outpaced incomes, leaving little left over at the end of the month. To combat the growing rates of food insecurity, the Affordability Action Council is calling on the federal government to reform and rename the GST/HST credit to a Groceries and Essentials Benefit that would help more households buy adequate food and other essentials.
“Lower-income Canadians are feeling the pinch of higher food prices,” says Gillian Petit, Affordability Action Council member and a senior research associate at the University of Calgary. “Many people are not buying enough food so they can afford to pay the rent and their utility bills. Increased income support is needed to ensure that the food and essential needs of all Canadians are met,” she says.
In a new policy brief, the Affordability Action Council recommends that the federal government restructure and expand the existing GST/HST credit and rename it the Groceries and Essentials Benefit. Paid in monthly installments to provide recipients more stability to pay recurring bills, the benefit would target households with working-age adults and provide benefit amounts based on the income and number of people in a household. The expansion would increase the base amount to $150 a month per adult and $50 a month per child. All households that currently receive the GST/HST rebate would get more money, but the lowest-income households would see a larger increase.
“Many people with low and moderate incomes struggle to navigate Canada’s tax and benefit system. This new income benefit, combined with efforts to make sure that those who are most vulnerable can access it through tax filing support, would fill a critical hole in our social safety net,” adds Lisa Rae, council member and director of system change at Prosper Canada.
The AAC cautions that, as with other benefits that are provided through the income tax system, people who do not file tax returns would not receive the proposed Groceries and Essentials Benefit. To ensure that the maximum number of individuals receive the support to which they are entitled, the AAC recommends that the federal government expedite its planned launch of the automated tax filing system for individuals with low and fixed incomes announced in Budget 2023.
The Affordability Action Council is making additional recommendations that address other basic needs such as transportation and housing. The council’s work will culminate in a comprehensive report to be released in early 2024.
About the Affordability Action Council
The AAC is a dedicated, pan-Canadian group that brings together diverse policy experts and community leaders to come up with new approaches to policymaking that considers all basic needs, including housing, food, transportation and a livable climate. It is an initiative of the Institute for Research on Public Policy, Destination Zero, the Trottier Family Foundation and the McConnell Foundation.
Groceries and Essentials Benefit: Helping People with Low Incomes Afford Everyday Necessities can be downloaded from the IRPP’s website (irpp.org).
Media contact: Cléa Desjardins – 514-245-2139 – firstname.lastname@example.org
514-245-2139 • email@example.com