Looking across the Ottawa River to Hull, Quebec

Rachel Blaney: Canada needs a ‘Bar of Dignity’

According to data from the 2016 census, 20% of Quadra Island residents and 27% of Cortes Island residents are paying more for their homes in rent or mortgages than they can afford. More recent studies suggest that a significant number of families throughout the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) are so financially stretched that they are at risk of becoming homeless. 75% of the ‘housing insecure’ respondents to the ‘Collecting Stories of Where We Live’ survey on Cortes Island, and 33% on Quadra Island, are working. These are some of the people North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney is referring to, when she talks about the need for a bar of dignity.

Image credit: Rachel Blaney- submitted photo

“One of the things that I’m really passionate about working for in my constituency, and in fact for all of Canada, is this idea of having  a bar of dignity. We can’t let them go under that,” she told Cortes Currents.  

“What we’re seeing now is a lot of people falling between the cracks. We see it in our communities, we see it in people who are couch surfing. We see it in people in some of our bigger communities where they’re pushing their carts around because that is their home. We’re just seeing a lot of working families doing all the right things, just doing everything they’re supposed to be doing, and they’re not making enough to make ends meet.” 

Blaney reiterated the idea that people should not be paying more than 30% of their income on housing. 

“If it gets over that, it really leads to a lack of stability which is not good for communities and it’s definitely not good for seniors and families,” she explained. 

“If people have enough, things like crime go down and community well-being goes up.”  

“The other part that I have to mention is we have to be brave enough to look at some of the big corporations and say, ‘You have to start paying your fair share.’”

Blaney cited the example of Loblaws making $1 million a day last year, or the record breaking profits being made by gas and oil companies

“We’re seeing a lot of oil and gas businesses that are making the biggest profit that they’ve seen in the last 30 years. Well, that worries me because it’s telling me that the cost that we’re paying when we go to fuel up is not just inflation, it’s also greed. It’s people taking this opportunity to make more.”  

“So we’ve asked the government to get serious and have the competition bureau be part of this, especially around the grocery store part. Especially now when people are trying to figure out how they’re going to feed themselves, because the cost of everything are going up. We have to make sure it is not so that richer people can be richer.” 

Speaking as the former head of a non-profit and a homeowner, Blaney added, “I agree that we always have to be cautious about how we spend our money, but we also have to think of the ways that we as a government make our money, and are we holding those people to account.”

“Why are we allowing these big corporations to get away with it? Why are we telling people, who are struggling every day, that if we do anything (to hamper business), ‘They’re all going to leave and we’re all going to be left with no jobs.’ I don’t believe that! I’ve seen other countries take this on and I think Canada has to step up.” 

She says the federal government’s current investments in ‘affordable housing’ lack focus. Contracts are going to corporations that build $2,000 a month rental units in cities, rather than homes for lower income working Canadians. The government has not identified the need for senior’s housing. They are not building in rural areas like the North Island-Powell River riding. 

(While the Feds are virtually ‘absent’ in our riding, the provincial government has been stepping up through BC Housing – editor)

Blaney listed a number of small steps which the NDP pushed  forward:

“One of the things that we’ve suggested to the federal government is that the assessments need to come from the communities themselves. Communities usually do the work to identify what a livable wage is in their region. And so if we looked at that, it would definitely make it more affordable or for  the non-market housing to really be placed in the non-profit sector where we know for sure that there’ll be a measurement skill of 30% and how that’s usually done is by  year end tax return.” 

“The housing allowance is now going through.  If you are paying more than 30% of your income in rent, you can apply for this one time, $500. It won’t fix everything. I acknowledge that, but we really felt that it was important during this time where the cost of living is going up so quickly and a lot of people are struggling to even get a little bit of money.” 

The Canadian Senate passed the GST rebate increase on November 4. There should be another payment early in the coming year. For the next six months, the quarterly GST credits will be doubled as a part of the measures to help low- and modest-income Canadians deal with high inflation.

Canada is adopting a dental plan, albeit in incremental steps. The first step is a payment for families with children aged 12 and under who are earning less than $90,000 a year. That is going out to families who make less than $90,000 a year and have children 12 and under. Next year the program will also include families with children up to the age of 18, seniors, and people wth disabilities. Eventually it will be for all Canadians. 

More details will be announced as the plan unfolds.

“We are working hard to make sure that the program is something that pays up front. We don’t want a program that says, ‘Well, you go out and pay that expense, and then we get you reimbursed,’” said Blaney. 

“I know it’s really hard if you do not have a huge amount of money and you have to spend a lot on dental care.”

She asked anyone wanting more information about any of these issues, or needs help, to contact her constituency office. 

Main office – Campbell River
427 10th Avenue
Campbell River, British Columbia, V9W 4E4
Telephone: 250-287-9388
Fax: 250-287-9361

Powell River
4683 Marine Avenue
Powell River, British Columbia, V8A 2G8
Telephone: 604-489-2286

This is a synopsis of the first half of an interview with local MP Rachel Blaney. There is much more in the podcast. In the second half of this interview, she specifically talks about seniors.

Top image credit: Looking across from the parliament buildings to Hull, Quebec -Photo by Shubham Sharan on Unsplash.

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