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  • Winnipeg Tribune

Editorial: The Imperative of Affordable Living – A Call to Action for Governments

Winnipeg, October 29, 2023 - In today's economic reality, the average family's pursuit of owning a home, destination vacations, and a child's education faces a formidable challenge: the rising cost of basic needs.

The consequences of this crisis are far-reaching and dire, yet the actions of our governments, from local to federal, remain frustratingly inadequate.

Affordability, or the lack thereof, stands as a critical issue that transcends political divides. Regardless of one's ideology, it is undeniable that the ability to meet basic needs is a fundamental cornerstone of individual and familial well-being. This is not merely an economic concern; it's a matter of social justice and preserving the social fabric that underpins our province.

Consider the cost of groceries, an essential aspect of daily life. Families have long felt the pinch of escalating prices at the supermarket, with their grocery bills growing at a pace that outstrips wage increases. The ripple effects of this phenomenon are profound, stretching from the family kitchen to the national economy. When families must allocate an ever-increasing portion of their budgets to feeding themselves, the funds available for other crucial needs, such as a child's education, recreation, and saving for the future, are constricted.

The same holds for housing, whether renting or owning. Skyrocketing rents and surging mortgage rates have made the dream of homeownership increasingly elusive for many. The strain on household budgets is evident, as a growing portion of income is earmarked for shelter. These high costs put pressure not only on finances but also on emotional well-being as the fear of foreclosure or eviction looms ever larger.

Another facet of this crisis is the surging price of fuel. In a nation where cars are often a lifeline, the relentless rise in gas prices weighs heavily on families, particularly those in areas where public transportation is limited. Commuting to work, transporting children to school and extracurricular activities, and simply going about daily life become more burdensome as fuel costs soar. This trend not only threatens economic stability but also undermines environmental goals, as people may be less inclined to embrace fuel-efficient alternatives, hindered by the costs.

The potential consequences of this affordability crisis are severe and extend far beyond the realm of finance. Families burdened by mounting costs face increased financial stress that can strain relationships, leading to marital discord and, in some cases, divorce. The personal toll exacted by financial strain can be immeasurable, impacting not only parents but also the well-being of children. The social and psychological consequences of these hardships ripple through communities and weaken the very fabric of society.

This is not a predicament that any government, at any level, can afford to ignore. The question arises: What steps must be taken to address this urgent issue? It is the collective responsibility of local, provincial, and federal governments to tackle this crisis head-on.

At the local level, municipal leaders must consider policies that promote affordable housing, such as incentives for developers to build affordable units and fast-tracking the permitting process. Additionally, municipalities can hold property tax increases and increases to recreation fees by controlling internal spending on non-essential budget items.

Provincial governments can play a pivotal role in addressing the affordability crisis through policies that ease the financial burden on families. Policies such as increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and exempting more essential products from a Provincial Sales Tax will provide immediate relief to households struggling to make ends meet.

At the federal level, comprehensive efforts are required to address this national challenge. Legislation to provide targeted financial relief to families, such as expanding the Child Tax Credit or increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit, can significantly alleviate financial stress. Moreover, strategic investments in infrastructure, particularly public transportation and affordable housing, can stimulate economic growth and create a path toward a more affordable future.

It is imperative that our governments, at every level, prioritize affordability as a central tenet of their policies and initiatives. This is not a matter of partisan politics; it is a matter of ensuring that every family has a fair shot at a prosperous future. The rising cost of basic needs is a challenge that requires our collective will and commitment to overcome. The consequences of inaction are too severe to ignore – more families in debt, heightened financial stress, and the potential disintegration of families. The time for action is now, and it is the responsibility of our governments to lead the way towards a more affordable and equitable future.


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