Food rates for Islanders on social assistance will see incremental increases over the next five years, the P.E.I. government announced this week.
Starting Sept. 1, food rates will increase by five per cent for a single adult, and comparable amounts for families.
The Department of Community Services is spending $2.8 million over the next five years for this and subsequent food rate increases.
“We made a commitment in the social action plan to explore options for social assistance food rate increases,” Community Services Minister Valerie Docherty said.
She added this increase is based on a 10-year average of the P.E.I. Consumer Price Index for food.
During the spring of 2014 department staff met with food security advocacy groups who provided feedback on food rates and food security issues.
A working group will now be established under the umbrella of the social action plan to continue a collaborative process in looking at food rates for low-income Islanders, Docherty said.
“We were fortunate to have had valuable input from these community groups and the feedback we received helped us to shape this plan,” Docherty said, adding future increases over the next five years will be based on the CPI.
But the increases this year will see food rates increasing only between $3 and $20 a month.
A single adult will receive only $9 a month more for food when rates increase in September.
NDP Leader Mike Redmond says this doesn’t go far enough to help P.E.I.’s most vulnerable.
He pointed to recent data from Statistics Canada showing average weekly earnings in April of this on Prince Edward Island were $777. This was the lowest weekly earnings in the country and well behind second lowest in Nova Scotia at $825.
“The government is falling short on help for social assistance clients and coming up with nothing for the thousands working Islanders who still cannot make ends meet,” Redmond said.
He suggests the province should increase the amount it gives to low-income Islanders in HST rebates as a way to help those who struggle to meet their basic needs.
“The government has known for quite some time that poverty is spreading at the lower paid end of the workforce and that more and more children are missing out on decent chances in life” Redmond said.
“It is time for the cabinet to sit down, hammer out a plan for higher HST rebates for more Islanders, and get the cheques out the door. They have taken this money from people and it is time to send some of it back. Their economic policies are not working.”