Their situation

In January 2018, there was a monthly average of 36,850 men, women and children on Social Assistance in our province. Out of that number, 6,908 recipients (91.4% of them being single) were on Extended Benefits meaning they are certified disabled. All the other 29,942 recipients were in the Transitional Assistance category. In this category, slightly more than two thirds are single individuals and one-fifth of them are one-parent family.1 Two thirds of social assistance recipients rely on food banks to survive.

All the men, women and children living on social assistance are in the category of low income as defined by the Market Basket Measure ($19,234 for a single individual). None of them can meet their basic needs in terms of food, housing, transportation, clothing, etc. As Table 1 shows, they experience a significant annual deficit and are forced to live in constant economic insecurity.

Annual revenue for different categories of citizens on social assistance, 2017 ($)

CategoryTotal annual revenue ($)Poverty line (Market Basket Measure – 2015)Annual deficit ($)
Single7 02819 232– 12 204
Single disabled9 74019 232– 9 492
One parent, one child18 57727 193– 8 636
Couple, two children 26 36838 463– 12 095

Source: Department of Social Development and Cansim 206-0093

Inflation and loss of purchasing power

One of the ways to change the situation of social assistance beneficiaries is to increase their basic rate. The basic rate is not high enough and has not even followed the rate of inflation. For example, the last time the basic rate for a single employable individual was increased was in 2010, and since then, no increase has been made, so their purchasing power has decreased.

As Table 2 shows, if the basic rate of individuals had followed the inflation rate, their basic rate would be $604.18 per month in 2017, instead of $537 per month. For three other categories, their basic rate has not increased since 2014 and when we take inflation in consideration, again, we see a significant shortfall. All these citizens on social assistance have seen their purchasing power decreased.

If we want beneficiaries to keep pace with inflation, this means that in 2018, a single employable in the Transitions Assistance category should receive a 13% increase and all the other recipients should receive a 5% increase. Afterwards, the rates should be indexed to follow inflation.

Our proposals:

  1. Increase, in 2018-2019, the basic monthly rate of all categories of recipients to compensate for the loss of purchasing power they have experienced in the last years, due to inflation. Single employable individuals in the Transitional Assistance category should have their basic rate increased by 13%, and all the other recipients should get a 5% increase and index for inflation after.
  2. Adopt a minimum income standard to calculate the total annual income which social assistance recipients should receive. This amount should be based on the Market Basket Measure and be a combination of social assistance basic rate plus other income sources. This measure would be implemented during the next ten years.