Some local community support organizations are voicing questions and concerns regarding the province’s announcement Thursday morning that will see thousands of Manitobans receive a one-time payment.
Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson announced a $200-million Carbon Tax Relief Fund aimed at helping 700,000 Manitobans cope with the negative impacts of rising winter costs, from food to fuel.
Joy Neufeld manages Soup’s On, the soup kitchen in Steinbach. She says any financial support is always appreciated, but there are a few parts in the announcement that do not sit well with Neufeld.
The 2023 Carbon Tax Relief Fund will provide help for all Manitobans who lived in the province on December 31st, 2021, and whose family net income that year was less than $175,000.
“I do have some pretty significant concerns about why the same amount of money is going to couples and families with income triple the amount of what some of our folks might have, or even quadruple of what they have,” Neufeld says.
Spending time with people who are living in poverty, unable to pay for some basic needs, this part of the announcement is something Neufeld is struggling to comprehend.
“The families with the income of 175,000 or whatever it is, and they're still receiving the same amount as families that would have an income of 30 to $35,000... that's just... how does that make any sense to anybody? I don't get it.”
The province’s plan details payment size for people who are single and for couples. This is another detail that does not make sense to Neufeld.
She shakes her head at the payment size of $225 per single person while couples will receive $375.
“The seniors that are living alone, that have lost their partners, have the same amount of expenses as if there's two of them when it comes to paying rent and the phone bill. And yet their income with the loss of their partner, that income is cut in half. They're still supposed to survive on that. So yeah, a lot of concerns with the announcement. A little bit of ‘thank you, we appreciate that’ but it's more a whole lot of concerns.”
Many of Neufeld’s concerns are echoed by Audrey Harder, executive director of the Pat Porter Active Living Centre.
“It is great that the provincial government recognizes the struggles that seniors experience as they are on fixed incomes,” Harder says, adding that “It always ends up that the additional taxes and fees for improvements and change goes directly to the consumer. Unfortunately, when the set income does not take into account the increase in cost of living, which changes annually, or the needs of individuals it lacks.”
Harder says these one-time payments are band aid solutions, temporary. She asks, “What happens in the long-term?”
“We will continue to advocate for all members of our community to be able to live successful, fulfilled and dignified lives, no matter their situation,” Harder adds. “Older adults have given many years to the community, the economy, and contributed so they are able to retire well, and this isn’t always the case. We know the provincial government sees the need, let’s hope this leads to a permanent solution and some commitments.”
Hank Klassen at South East Helping Hands in Steinbach says they regularly see people in the community who are struggling to meet their basic needs.
The food bank has approximately 30 volunteers who help package and distribute around 330 food hampers every two weeks, helping to feed around 1,485 adults and children in Steinbach.
Klassen urges Manitobans to spend time this year engaging with provincial politicians and the different parties, to learn what plans they propose for a long-term solution to poverty in the province.
“Ask many questions,” Klassen says.
Statistics Canada’s Consumer Price Index reached a near 40-year high in June 2022 in Manitoba, peaking at 9.4 per cent growth year over year. In December 2022, the rate of growth was eight per cent, the highest among all provinces.