June 18th, 2024

NDP calling on government to firm up promised inflation relief payments

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on January 3, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

The New Democratic Party is calling on the Provincial government to provide Albertans with a date for when they can expect their promised inflation relief payments.

NDP Finance Critic and MLA for Lethbridge West, Shannon Phillips told the Herald on Monday that it has been 41 days since Albertans were promised their relief payments the UCP still has no system for distributing the money to them.

“Albertans are facing 40-year-high inflation and they need this assistance. There is no indication that the government will be able to deliver these payments in a way that is sufficient and trustworthy in January,” said Phillips.

 She said the government has yet to begin working on a proper distribution system, as they refused to utilize the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) to do so.

Phillips said questions continue to be raised about how exactly the government will determine eligibility and provide the money to Albertans. She said she does not understand why the UCP government refuses to use CRA, which already has access to critical information, such as Albertans’ income levels. 

 She said the UCP government has discussed setting up its own portal, requiring Albertans to apply and then be put through an income verification process. To date, there has been no indication that a portal is being built despite Danielle Smith’s promise of direct-to-Albertan payments over 40 days ago.

 “I am increasingly concerned that Albertans will not see these payments or that the distribution of them will have a lot of challenges, flaws and inefficiencies associated with them,” said Phillips.

 She said she recently wrote to the Finance Minister, Travis Toews to encourage him to use the CRA to distribute this money.

 “We know that we can do income verification and number of children verification, because all of that information is available when we file our taxes. This (using CRA) will guard against fraud and payments that are given in error,” said Phillips.

She said she hopes the distribution gets done in January as it was promised to Albertans, but she pointed out the program is already flawed, as it leaves out two million Albertans.

“If you were a low-income person with no children, you don’t get any assistance from Daniel Smith and the UCP,” said Phillips.

 She said if by election time, things have not improved and the NDP has the privilege to govern again, they are bringing a whole array of commitments around affordability, including but not limited to freezing car insurance rates, reinstating a cap on utilities among other things.

 “We would bring forward our full affordability package, and if there were any hangover effects from UCP incompetence, we would get to work on that right away,” said Phillips.

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