“The Saskatchewan provincial budget tabled on June 15, 2020 was most notable in its brevity and lack of foresight.”
In this publication, Poverty Free Saskatchewan describes in detail the inappropriate frugality impacting the most vulnerable and the lack of contingency planning for a COVID-19 return and makes recommendations for future government action. (See full publication budget_2020_PFS_web)
Poverty Free Saskatchewan recommends that the provincial government proceed to provide better social protection to the bottom half of income earners, including the following:
1. The first immediate step the provincial government could, and should, take is to top up the federal child benefit – essentially a basic income for children – which would be a significant help to single parent families and the lowest income families. However, the Minister of Social Services would call this program stacking and has not implemented it.
An increase to the child benefit would create a modest boost in income for the small army of carers and volunteers – mostly women – whose contribution, as the epidemic has revealed, is critical to the functioning of society but greatly undervalued. By providing all citizens with much more choice over work, education, training, leisure and caring, it would also lay the foundation for greater personal empowerment and freedom. By establishing a baseline income, poverty and inequality would be reduced, universalism strengthened and means-testing lessened. Adopting such a scheme would of course require a wide political debate, but it would put down a marker for the kind of society which could emerge when the crisis subsides.
2. We support the changes to social service programs as stated in RAPM’s letter to the government
- An increase of $300 per month to the basic allowance of all the department’s programs
- A request to not claw back the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments
- A request to retain the new joint federal-provincial rent subsidy that is being denied people on income assistance
- An increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour
3. We encourage the government to upgrade its action plans on poverty and pass an anti-poverty act to provide a strong enforcement to plans to end poverty.
4. We strongly suggest that the government allocate a significant portion of the provincial $200 million pandemic plan to address the effects of COVID-19 on mental health, drug addiction, HIV prevention services, housing, and the education and training systems.