Nfld. & Labrador

Income supplement 'not going to level out' fee increases, levy: Jenny Wright

Women in Newfoundland and Labrador — particularly low income earners and seniors — will be hit the hardest by fees and tax increases outlined in the 2016 budget.
Jenny Wright, the executive director of the St. John's Status of Women Council, says women in the province, particularly seniors and mothers, will be hit the hardest by fees, taxes and the levy.

Women in Newfoundland and Labrador — particularly low income earners and seniors — will be hit the hardest by fees and tax increases outlined in the 2016 budget, according to the executive director of the St. John's Status of Women Council.

Jenny Wright says women will be disproportionately hit by the various increases outlined by the Liberals.

"The increased fees, hikes and the levies were gonna cause a great deal of distress for marginalized and poor people in our community, and we're even more concerned because what we do know is that the majority of the poor are women," Wright told CBC's Central Morning Show.

According to Wright, women in this province make 66 per cent of what men make. They also hold more low-paying jobs and contract positions.

That's just not gonna offset the fees, the levy, as well as the increased taxes and the increased hikes.- Jenny Wright

"They also start at a lower socioeconomic standpoint because of their childbirth years where they're away from the workforce. Then they lose raises within their income, as well as contributions to their pension," she said.

"That makes bearing the brunt of extra fees, hikes and the levy extremely difficult."

And it's not just working mothers who will feel the hit the hardest, she said. 

Wright said women make up the majority of the province's senior population, a group that will be hit even harder.

"Who we're finding being hit the most is of course senior women, who disproportionately are poor, as well as single moms who run families, and interestingly enough, we find it with single women, as well."

'They're unable to contribute'

In addition, Wright said middle-class working mothers are likely to feel the pinch because they're unable to find affordable childcare — if they're able to find childcare at all.

Hundreds of protesters from several of the province's public sector unions marched on Confederation Building in St. John's on Saturday, the latest rally against the 2016 N.L. budget. (Katie Breen/CBC)

"We know of many, many women who can't go to work because there is inadequate childcare, so they're unable to contribute to the family and that lessens their living standards," she said.

That makes bearing the brunt of extra fees, hikes and the levy extremely difficult.- Jenny Wright

"And we know of many women who work just to pay childcare but don't make any more because their benefits include health and medical, so their able to at least keep health and medical going even though they're not actually making an income after daycare."

As for government's plans to introduce an income supplement program to help low-income earners pay the new fees, Wright said it just won't balance out.

"It looks like the income supplement that's going to come out is going to amount to about $450 — and that's just not gonna offset the fees, the levy, as well as the increased taxes and the increased hikes. It's not going to level out," she said.

Wright added the scrapping of a home heating rebate plan will hurt rural women especially, some of whom she said relied on that money to purchase food and medical supplies.

With files from Leigh Anne Power