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Province unveils cost of living measures

MHA Tony Wakeham (Stephenville – Port au Port), who has been critical of the provincial Liberal government is encouraged by last week’s measures to help offset the high cost of living. – © File photo

By Jaymie L. White

Special to Wreckhouse Press

ST. JOHN’S — On Thursday afternoon, May 26, the provincial government announced the implementation of additional support to assist the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador with the high cost of living.

The support comes in the form of$80 million in temporary and targeted measures, in addition to the $142 million announced as part of Budget 2022.

The measures introduced include:

• Temporarily lowering the price at the pump by 8.05 cents per litre (includes HST) until January 1, 2023 by reducing the provincial tax on gasoline and diesel by 7 cents per litre.

• A one-time payment in the fall of 2022 provided to supplement the cost of furnace oil used for home heating. Households with a net in-come under $100,000 will receive a payment of $500, and households with a net income between $100,000 and $150,000 will receive a partial payment between $200 and $500.

In addition to these temporary measures, it was also announced that there will be three increases to the minimum wage, based on the recommendation of the Minimum Wage Review Committee, beginning on Oct. 1, 2022 when the minimum wage will increase by 50 cents bringing it to $13.70 per hour.

On Apr. 1, 2023, an additional 80 cent increase will bring the rate to$14.50 per hour, with the final in-crease of 50 cents taking place on Oct. 1, 2023, bringing the minimum wage in the province to $15 per hour.

To assist small businesses with the increase in minimum wage, the government is creating a one-year application-based transitional support program for businesses with 20 employees or less, which will provide 50 cents an hour, per employee.

Premier Andrew Furey said the government of Newfoundland and Labrador has heard the concerns of residents, and this plan has been cultivated over a short period of time.

“Over the past few weeks, I’ve had many discussions with my federal colleagues regarding the inflationary pressures that are impacting people throughout the country and indeed the world. We also understand that Newfoundland and Labrador has a higher cost of fuel and goods given our geography. I am confident that the temporary and targeted measures announced today will offer relief to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and I appreciate the cooperation with our federal colleagues around this issue.”

MHA Tony Wakeham (Stephenville – Port au Port) had been disappointed in Budget 2022 not going far enough to put money back into the pockets of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians; however, with this most recent announcement, Wakeham said it is a move in the right direction.

“Finally, I think, the government has listened to the people of the province and have acted upon it. The issue around a home heating rebate program is something we’ve been pushing for all along. I’m hoping when they talk about the rebate programs such as the one announced today, that they will be tax free because you certainly don’t want to give someone $500 and then take 30 per cent back when they g oto do their income tax.”

Wakeham was also pleased to see that there would be a break at the pumps, which is something the residents of the province needed to see. But there was one particular tax he believes should also have been looked at.

“The sugar tax – that legislation has already been passed, but it was due to be implemented in September, and the government has budgeted revenue about $5 million to come in on that particular tax in this fiscal year, and I think the last thing the government should be doing now is reaching into people’s pockets and taking another $5 million out of them.”

Wakeham said it is a shame it took this long to see help coming for the people of the province, but now that these plans are in place, it’s time to get into the details.

“We’ll look at it over the next few days and see what exactly all the details are around it. I know there’s an application process, for example, for the home rebate program. Let’s hope it’s not a cumbersome process. We’ve got to look into those details, but the concept is to put more money in people’s pockets, and that’s always a good thing.”

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