More should be done than just a federal grocery rebate

The one-time rebate isn’t a solution that dives deep enough into the food security crises

The federal government’s grocery rebate doesn’t do much for the people working harder than necessary to put food on the table. (Unsplash/Tara Clark)

The federal government’s grocery rebate doesn’t do much for the people working harder than necessary to put food on the table. (Unsplash/Tara Clark)

Times are tough for many Canadians, and it seems as if the institutions that are supposed to be stepping up, are letting people down. What is worse is the solutions that do get thrown our way do not seem to go deep enough into addressing the underlying problems that have led to these crises, creating surface-level, band-aid answers. A recent case of this is the federal grocery rebate

The 2023 federal budget highlights how post-pandemic recovery and global inflation has made Canada’s cost of living a whole lot pricier and hard to live by. One way it seeks to offset the ongoing inflation crisis is to deliver lower and middle class people a one-time payment rolled into the GST/HST credit.

According to the budget, the rebate will provide eligible families with two children up to $467, single Canadians without children up to $234, and seniors with up to $225. Canada’s Food Price Report 2023 found a family of four is expected to spend $16,288.41 on groceries this year, and the price of food may rise five to seven per cent. 

This is unprecedented in Canadian history. The essentials of life are becoming increasingly inaccessible, and people may now have to seriously consider what they should purchase or skip out on during their next grocery store trip. 

The federal government’s response to this is a single check in the mail. It’s certainly better than a hearty slap on the back and a warm wish of good luck, but more can and should be done.

I know I’m not alone in this view, and those working hard to feed the food-insecure are not ecstatic about the rebate either. 

In an interview with CityNews, Cynthia Boulter, chief operating officer for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank (GVFB), says the rebate will offer only temporary relief for low-income Canadians. Boulter also draws attention to the wasted surplus food that gets tossed out by businesses such as restaurants and grocery stores to make way for new inventory. 

This practice is a common issue throughout the food-handling industry. A large handful of Canadians facing food-insecurity could be helped if the wasted food sent to landfills was actually used and eaten. However, food-insecurity is a crisis in and of itself that isn’t isolated to the current global inflation issue. This is something that requires a larger, more transformative series of actions to resolve. 

In 2021, 5.8 million Canadians reported being food-insecure. This year, food banks in Canada are predicted to see a 60 per cent increase in visitations per month. 

The rising cost of living has only made this situation worse, and until meaningful action takes place, our society could be pushed to the edge of survivability. Low and middle class Canadians feel the strain of this affordability crisis every single day, and it is not going away anytime soon. 

The federal government’s grocery rebate could be called a first step in the right direction, but it doesn’t do much for the people working harder than necessary to put food on the table, assuming they haven’t already been forced to take drastic measures and skip meals. When people with two or more jobs still need to turn to food banks, it is then time to start reflecting on the path we are headed.