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Canadian Government Grocery Rebate Now ‘Live’

It was promised in the Budget this past spring and now it’s rolling out across the land. But the Fed Government’s Grocery Rebate is looking more like a skateboard than a Cadillac. Will it make a difference for those who really need it?

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It’s simple

If you qualify for the GST Rebate benefit, you qualify for the Grocery Rebate. It’s a straight up hand-out to help families most in need to pay for their groceries. The Liberal government id this instead of taking the bolder path that France took. Instituting price ceilings on key foods along with penalties for retailers which don’t comply.

But we’re not here to talk politics.

What you’ll get

The Grocery Rebate is a one-time payment, similar to one mandated last fall for the same purpose.

Families with two adults and two kids could receive up to $467. Singles with no kids could receive up to $234. Seniors could get up to $225 on average.

The question is, how helpful will the Rebate be? It doesn’t sound like a lot of money. Especially since it’s just a one-time payment.

How folks will spend their rebates

There seems to be no common thread among Canadians as to how they plan to spend their Grocery Rebates.

According to a recent CTV News survey, some folks will indulge in foods they couldn’t afford without the rebate. Others will focus on buying extras of foods they can freeze, or that have long shelf lives (like canned goods). Still others will ‘splurge’ on fresh fruit and veggies they’ve had to skimp on to make ends meet. Parents often think first of their kids; of treats they’ve had to deny them.

One case in point

The CTV survey talked to two seniors, one living in Eastern Ontario and the other in Saskatchewan.

Elise Chartrand of Embrun, Ont., spends about $620 per month on groceries. Dennis William of Regina spends only about $235 a month.  It seems to me that the Grocery Rebate will mean more to Dennis than it will to Elise.

I base my assumption not only on the difference in grocery budgets. There are also the assertions by both on how they’ll spend their Rebate ‘windfalls’.

“I’ve been so hungry for watermelon and some fresh fruits,” Chartrand told CTVNews. “I haven’t bought fresh fish in so long, it’ll be so nice to get a big piece of halibut … That should take care of the money rebate real quick.”

Dennis, on the other hand, confided that, “I won’t use it up all at once.” He says he’s developed a routine of shopping several supermarkets and keeping an eye on the flyers to get the best deals. He says he’ll, “spread the money out over a few months and wait until items go on sale before purchasing them in an effort to stock up.”

Not enough to make a real difference

The one-time Rebate translates to only about $39 per month for the family of four. And it means a paltry $19 for seniors like Dennis and Chartrand.

William says the Rebate is simply not enough to make a real difference, especially to those who need help most:

“The [government] should consider giving this grocery rebate more than just the one time.”

My take

I have to agree with William. And others who have remarked on the inadequacy of the Rebate. It’s more a symbolic move by the government than a substantive one. And a number of high-profile critics have already condemned the Rebate as cynical and shameful. But as my paternal grandma would have said, “Anything’s better than nothing…”

~ Maggie J.