Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,
I wrote you an earlier letter, Dear Prime Minister, poor people in Nova Scotia need your help, and since that letter was written you have continued to do a great job for Canadians.
However, there are also concerns. On Tuesday June 9 you introduced a bill which includes improvements to the CERB and a one-time payment for persons living with disabilities.
Also in this same bill you include punishment for some of those who applied for the CERB while not qualifying.
I am glad to see that you will not punish people for making honest mistakes, and I do agree that the money should be paid back. However I do not agree with further punishment such as for example the penalty or jail time you are proposing for poor people who applied while they shouldn’t have.
Also, here in Nova Scotia our provincial Department of Community Services (DCS) has directed its clients who DCS thought qualified to apply for that CERB. So if someone who applied for the CERB in error got directed by another government agency to apply, then it is not their fault they applied in the first place, that is also an honest mistake.
These days of COVID-19 are costly to a lot of people. In addition to stocking up on groceries, people also had to stock up on cleaning supplies, etc. Putting poor people in jail doesn’t solve anything, it just makes their hard lives even harder.
Everything I just explained are reasons as to why there should be no punishment whatsoever. Just make sure these people who are getting it and do not qualify pay the money back, and that is it.
Here is some more food for thought.
The $600 one time payment you are proposing to pay those who qualify for the Disability Tax Credit, is not enough help for persons with disabilities. Also, not everybody will qualify. I believe if and when this passes, this amount should be higher and it should not be just a one time payment.
Here is an article I once wrote, Why I support a guaranteed basic income. If, like you have been saying in your media address, “we will continue to be there for Canadians”, this article I just linked will give you some food for thought and new ideas.
Here in Nova Scotia and from what sources tell me, in other provinces as well, income assistance that is full of bureaucratic nonsense and systemic problems. Even in non COVID-19 times we already had people jump through all kinds of hoops in order to get stuff and survive.
If we had a guaranteed basic income in Canada, then things like whether or not you qualify for benefits plus having to pay the money back would not be an issue.
Finally, I know the NDP leader Jagmeet Singh had been pushing for you to drop the punishment and jail time you are proposing. Also, he is pushing for an extension of the CERB. I suggest listening to the NDP leader. I know the NDP leader cares about persons with disabilities and people living in poverty.
I hope there are positive changes to this bill to come.
Kendall Worth is an award-winning anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.