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B.C. premier announces financial aid for cost-of-living increases

Rent increases capped at two per cent for 2023; temporary boost for B.C. Family Benefit and Climate Action Tax Credit for some households.

Families will receive a financial boost worth up to a maximum of $760 and rent increases will be capped next year to help those feeling the squeeze of global inflation and interest-rate hikes, Premier John Horgan announced Wednesday in Langford .

The measures include a one-time increase next month to the Climate Action Tax Credit for low- and moderate-income earners, an increase January through March to the B.C. Family Benefit, and a two per cent cap on rent hikes in 2023.

The cost to the government is $600 million — $500 million in temporary increases to the Climate Action Tax Credit and $100 million in a three-month increase to the B.C. Family Benefit.

“We’ve been experiencing unprecedented inflation, not just here in British Columbia, but indeed internationally,” Horgan said at Goudy Field sports stadium, while kids played soccer in the background.

“Families are seeing it in the grocery store, we certainly see it at the pumps, where we’ve seen a 35 cent drop in gas prices and still they remain unacceptably high for most British Columbians.”

The pandemic and war in Ukraine have “put us all collectively in a difficult spot,” he said.

Measures announced by the province include:

• In October, the maximum amount for the Climate Action Tax Credit will be increased for low- and moderate-income British Columbians by up to an additional $164 per adult and $41 per child, meaning a family with two adults and two children earning less than $148,000 could receive up to an additional $410.

• In January, February and March, the B.C. Family Benefit will increase by as much as $58.33 per child each month, meaning a family with two children earning about $117,000 will receive up to $350. A single parent with one child could receive up to an additional $175 from January to March. The benefit amount phases out at an income of $115,000 for a single parent with one child.

• Rent increases will be capped at two per cent for 2023. The province says it recognizes that landlords are facing the same inflationary pressure and is committed to ensuring that landlords can make the necessary repairs and upgrades to their rental units.

B.C. residents do not need to apply for the enhanced Climate Action Tax Credit and B.C. Family Benefit — if their income-tax filing is up to date, they will automatically receive the temporary increases.

Horgan said the cheques will come in the first week of October.

Liberal finance critic Peter Milobar said the tax credit is one the Liberals support but it’s disappointing it comes almost five months after the premier instructed the finance minister to work on financial-aid measures.

The Liberals have called for a Climate Action Tax Credit since March.

The rent cap falls short of the rent relief that the NDP twice promised in elections, and the cap doesn’t help those who have to move for a variety of reasons, he said.

“I think there seems to be a disconnect between the government understanding the real pain that everyday British Columbians are feeling and that’s why there does not seem to have been a rush or an urgency to bring home these measures,” said Milobar.

“There’s not one measure they announced today that I can see why it would have taken four and a half months for them to wrap their head around,” said Milobar, noting all the funds are allocated through existing programs.

“It took them four and a half months to decide to top up existing programs for low-and-middle income people in the middle of massive inflationary issues — it’s simply not good enough.”

B.C. Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the measures offer welcome relief. The Cowichan Valley MLA applauded the use of existing programs to get the funds out faster. “This is a good measure that will help people make ends meet in a time where it seems impossible.”

Furstenau said, however, the one-off rebates offer only short-term relief and “fail to address systemic challenges that British Columbians are facing, and have failed to invest in our crumbling services.”

The government is working with B.C. Hydro on an additional cost-of-living measure that will come later in the year, said Horgan.

The announcement comes as the Bank of Canada posts another interest-rate hike — three quarters of a percentage point, with the rate rising to 3.25 from 0.25 at the start of the year — in an attempt to rein in inflation.

The province has also announced a $60-million Student and Family Affordability Fund to help school districts ensure students are fed and have the school supplies they need for the year.

Among Island school districts, funding amounts range from $250,000 in the Gulf Islands, Vancouver Island West and Vancouver Island North to almost $2 million in Greater Victoria.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com