The Yukon government’s inflation-relief measures have drawn criticism from both opposition parties.
Three heat rebates were announced last week.
An inflation relief rebate on ATCO energy bills, $50 per month for the next three months, was announced on Sept. 27. A 10 per cent increase to the Pioneer Utility Grant, a government fund that assists seniors with the costs of heating their homes, is also being provided. The government also committed to a rebate of $50 per cord of heating wood Yukoners purchase this winter up to 10 cords per household.
The NDP and the Yukon Party presented their own visions for ways to help Yukoners battling rising energy costs.
For Kate White and the Yukon NDP, the solutions fall well short of the affordability challenges Yukoners face.
“Today I’m here to talk about affordability. And it won’t surprise anybody when I say that we’re currently in a cost of living crisis, the cost of essential goods have skyrocketed, it’s increasingly difficult for people to make ends meet,” White said during a Sept. 28 press conference.
“They’re offering a dime when Yukoners really need dollars. What Yukoners really need is leadership.”
The Yukon NDP leader said the government logged a nearly $40 million surplus in its spring budget and that should be used to help people cope with the rising costs of essentials. During the press conference, White set out three actions that the government could take to ease the burden of inflation.
The first action proposed is direct inflation relief payments of between $250 and $500 based on income, to go out with the next quarterly carbon rebates. Secondly, White called for both an immediate increase of about $140 per month to the Yukon Child Benefit and future adjustments keeping up with the rate of inflation. The third action item calls for an increase to the territory’s social assistance rates which the NDP states have not been reviewed since 2007 — while tied to inflation, the NDP states that the payments have never been enough to make ends meet in the Yukon.
White said the cost of implementing all three of the action items would be approximately $7.2 million, a fraction of the existing surplus. She added that the three proposed actions are among more than a dozen that she thinks will be important to discuss during the coming legislature sitting.
White was asked if the implementation of her party’s inflation relief plans could be made a condition for renewing confidence and supply agreement that the NDP is currently in with the Liberals, key to maintaining the Liberals’ hold on the Yukon legislature, when the agreement expires in January. She replied that it was too early to say amid the Liberals’ leadership race, but said the NDP would honour the agreement through its conclusion in January.
The Yukon Party levied their own criticism, stating that the inflation relief measures don’t do enough for seniors and elders.
“In April, the Yukon Party highlighted how the budget was already out-of-date and ignored the inflation crisis,” Watson Lake MLA Patti McLeod said.
“We suggested the government help ease the inflation crunch by doubling the amount of the Pioneer Utility Grant, and increasing the amount claimed through the Home Owners Grant to a maximum of $1,000 for those eligible seniors and elders until the inflation crisis is over.”
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