PC government would index seniors' benefit and review income support, Wakeham says

PC Leader Tony Wakeham was all smiles speaking with reporters on Tuesday, saying the byelection win is a sign that residents of Newfoundland and Labrador want change.  (Curtis Hicks/CBC - image credit)
PC Leader Tony Wakeham was all smiles speaking with reporters on Tuesday, saying the byelection win is a sign that residents of Newfoundland and Labrador want change. (Curtis Hicks/CBC - image credit)
PC Leader Tony Wakeham was all smiles speaking with reporters on Tuesday, saying the byelection win is a sign that residents of Newfoundland and Labrador want change.
PC Leader Tony Wakeham was all smiles speaking with reporters on Tuesday, saying the byelection win is a sign that residents of Newfoundland and Labrador want change.

PC Leader Tony Wakeham is promising to index income support and the seniors benefit to inflation if the Newfoundland and Labrador government turns blue in the next election. (Curtis Hicks/CBC)

PC Leader Tony Wakeham promises to index the seniors' benefit to inflation, if the government turns blue in the upcoming provincial election.

Wakeham is also promising a thorough review of income supports, as well as a cost-benefit analysis of every fee and tax that government charges.

"I think what we ought to be doing is making sure that the most vulnerable people in our province are looked after," Wakeham told CBC News.

Wakeham's promise comes as many people in Newfoundland and Labrador grapple with spikes in the cost of living, with Wakeham adding that the middle class are also struggling.

Wakeham said many people with middle-class incomes are concerned about being able to afford their mortgage renewal. Others cannot find or afford to rent an apartment.

In combination with the cost of groceries and the tax on sugar-sweetened drinks —  a frequent point of criticism from the PCs, who consistently attack the "sugar tax" — Wakeham wants to see the province take further action to help ordinary people.

"We want to achieve and actually help people instead of simply just taking around and making announcements. That's the whole problem here."

Benefit aimed at lower-income seniors

Indexing the seniors' benefit to inflation would increase the amount of money older residents receive from monthly benefits.

The seniors' benefit is currently as high as $1,516, payable to individuals with a net family income up to $29,402, according to the Department of Finance. The benefit is gradually phases out as income increases, up to $42,404.

"We would indeed index the seniors' benefit to inflation. We've committed to doing that and we will certainly turn around and do the same thing when it comes to all the other programs and services we offer," Wakeham said.

Taxpayers would foot the bill for inflation indexing, but Wakeham indicated that if done, it shouldn't be noticeable.

He said the party would review every fee and tax the province currently charges to avoid over-taxing people.

"It's not about spending more money, it's about choices," he said.

For example, the province has a second premier's office in Grand Falls-Windsor. Wakeham said this office has cost the province nearly $1 million in four years.

"That's $1 million that maybe that could have been used for food banks."

The province's projected expenses for budget 2024 are $10.4 billion. Wakeham doesn't intend to change the $10 billion budget figure if he takes office. Instead, he wants to reallocate funds to put money back in taxpayers pockets.

"I will always choose the people in Newfoundland and Labrador," Wakeham said.

Download our free CBC News app to sign up for push alerts for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador. Click here to visit our landing page.