Canada's one-time grocery rebate is taking criticism
Amid high food inflation and housing costs, the government proposed a one-time grocery rebate for Canadians in its 2023 fiscal budget.
The House of Commons unanimously approved the legislation in April, and it has now passed the Senate, becoming law.
Eligible citizens can expect hundreds of dollars in payment starting July 5.
Update: The Grocery Rebate is officially coming to eligible Canadians on July 5th. 11 million people across the country are going to receive hundreds of dollars in support by direct deposit or cheque. We’ll keep working to make life more affordable for you.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) May 11, 2023
But Canadians are pointing out a problem with the grocery rebate — one of the same nature as the one-time $500 rental top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit, which closed applications in March this year.
The rental top-up only helped families with an adjusted yearly net income of $35,000 or individuals with a net income of $20,000 or less. Moreover, applicants had to show that they spent at least 30 per cent of their income paying for their qualifying primary residences in 2022.
For someone with an income of $20,000, this meant an expense of only $500 per month on rent — an impossibly low amount for most Canadians renting in a housing market. Rent across Canada has gone up significantly over the last year.
The one-time grocery rebate is drawing criticism in the same vein — tight eligibility requirements and the jarring contrast of high food inflation.
Only households with an income of $38,000 or less and individuals with an income of $32,000 or less will qualify, so your rebate will not be based on your average grocery bill. And you won't even be considered unless you've filed your taxes for 2021.
However, you will not be forced to spend the extra payment on food. It won't arrive as a separate deposit in your bank account. Instead, it'll be integrated with the regular GST/HST credit scheduled for July, says the CRA.
Not everyone is eligible for this rebate but yet everyone is affected by high costs of groceries pic.twitter.com/auUhNQHy9X— Isabelle (@winetravelgolf) May 12, 2023
In 2022, the rate of food inflation touched a terrifying 10.3 per cent. According to the Canada Food Price Report's April instalment, more increases are coming to the country's grocery aisles.
"At 7 per cent, our forecast a year ago was considered by many to be alarmist, yet here we are with a food inflation rate above 10 per cent," this year's report admits. "Like 2022, we anticipate 2023 to be challenging for Canadians at the grocery store, especially for households with lower means."
This year, expect to pay 5 to 7 per cent more for bakery items, dairy products, and meat, among other things. In addition, seafood and general restaurant prices will likely be 4 to 6 per cent higher.
Fruit prices will increase by 3 to 5 per cent, but things get even grimmer on the other side of the produce section — vegetables have been hit the hardest, with an anticipated 6 to 8 per cent price hike.
Many find the "one-time" nature of the grocery rebate to be a bandaid on a bullet wound.
Where to start. Handing out cheques when running a deficient means borrowing more money, increasing inflationary pressure. These cheques are not food specific, they can be spent on goods and services as well as food, increasing inflationary pressure.— Carolyn with unacceptable views (@Carolyn16135679) May 12, 2023
One Twitter user pointed out that when spread out for the year, it amounts to just 32 cents per day, which isn't enough to buy one packet of instant noodles on sale.
The overhead of this Grocery rebate is not worth what it delivers. This is a press release not actual help.— Carolyn with unacceptable views (@Carolyn16135679) April 19, 2023
$38.90/4= $9.72 per person a month
$9.72/30=$0.32 per person per day
Current price of a package of Mr. Noodle near me is $0.49. pic.twitter.com/ts7bUn9c9H
Another said it was "disgraceful" that a whopping 11 million Canadians — roughly 30 per cent of the population — were so low-income they would qualify for the rebate.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy PM and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland are at the receiving end of the backlash on social media.
You shouldn’t be proud that 11 million, 30% of our population is so poor, and has an income so low, they’re eligible for the grocery rebate. This is disgraceful, it’s not something to brag about.— Donna G (@donna_613) May 12, 2023
Last year, Daily Hive interviewed ordinary Canadians, who revealed how badly inflation was affecting them.
Over half of our respondents said they'd stopped buying certain food items entirely to afford groceries. The second most common way out was cutting other expenses to ensure food was on the table.
"I can no longer afford groceries" was the third most frequent response we got.
Marginalized communities, those with chronic illness, and disabled Canadians appear to be the worst impacted.
"My spouse and I are both disabled. We already live in deep poverty due to meagre disability payments. Our rent takes up 68 per cent of our income. In order to avoid becoming homeless, paying the rent is our first priority," said 52-year-old Serena from Montreal.
Serena and their spouse use food banks but still don't have enough to eat. So they eat just one meal a day.
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