OPEN LETTER to Deputy Minister and ministers on ensure seniors’ GIS won’t be disrupted

Therefore, I call on your government to grandfather in all seniors receiving Guaranteed Income Supplement, by automatically renewing their GIS for the 2020-2021 year. Doing so would ensure that no senior loses this vital source of income at a time when maintaining income security for seniors is crucial for their health and safety.
Another issue that the Centre has flagged for me is an issue of GIS eligibility for the 2021-2022 year, which will be based on 2020 income. Some seniors will have received some emergency government support to cope with COVID-19; for example, in BC, the provincial government is offering $300 in assistance for seniors in receipt of the provincial Senior’s Supplement, a measure for very low-income seniors. The Centre has advised that seniors are worried that receipt of this supplement would mean they may not qualify for GIS next year, or that it would have the effect of lowering their eligible GIS monthly amount. In light of this, I call on your government to affirm that any and all COVID-19 emergency aid measures will be exempted from the income calculation for GIS purposes.

OPEN LETTER to Deputy Prime Minister on US border restrictions on asylum seekers

As it stands, the government announced this temporary measure would be extended for an additional 30 days, with Prime Minister Trudeau stating these restrictions will not be lifted anytime soon. This is particularly concerning as there is a lack of clarity on assurances from the U.S. as to how asylum seekers who are turned away under this policy would be treated. A recent article published on April 10, 2020, from BBC News acknowledged a disturbing leaked document on the U.S. border controls that are currently taking place. The full leaked document can be found here: CAPIO.html. According to the document, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol have very broad powers. There is no clarity on what will happen to individuals who attempt to enter Canada to seek refugee protection and are turned back to the United States.
Given the government’s policy directive to turn back all irregular asylum seekers from the U.S. at the border, it is important that Canadians are given assurances that we have done our own diligence with respect to our international obligations.

OPEN LETTER to Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister, Health Minister and National Revenue Minister on expanding emergency wage subsidy

As workers, businesses and organizations await the full rollout of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Program (CEWS), I am hearing from organizations and entities who seeking assistance to retain employees, meet urgent funding shortfalls and prevent suspension or closure of operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These organizations and entities have been excluded from eligibility for the CEWS, and appeal for an expansion of the criteria in order to prevent negative fallout ranging from shutdown of projects to loss of staff to permanent closure, all of which will have cascading consequences for our community.
The eligibility criteria specifically exclude public bodies, including “municipalities and local governments, Crown corporations, wholly owned municipal corporations, public universities, colleges, schools and hospitals”.

OPEN LETTER to federal and provincial health minister, BC housing minister and Vancouver mayor on the supply of PPE to NGO and senior homes

It is my understanding that many nonprofit housing providers and care homes funded by B.C. Housing and the regional health authorities are part of a coordinated effort to receive PPE procured by the government, and many have received supplies.
I am concerned that senior’s care homes who are not operated and funded by B.C. Housing and the health authorities are still struggling to obtain PPE for their staff. In particular, Vancouver Grace Seniors Home (333 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1V1), a care home in my riding, has reached out to me to inform me that they have been unable to obtain PPE for their staff.

OPEN LETTER to Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Employment Minister on assistance for single parents whose spousal and child payments are interrupted due to Covid-19

Based on the current eligibility rules for CERB, it would appear that single parents who are no longer receiving vital spousal or child support payments due to their ex-partners' income being affected by COVID-19 are not eligible.
Understandably, changes in an individual’s financial circumstances have been magnified during this time. This extends to ex-partners no longer having the income to make their spousal and child support payments, and in effect many single parents are suddenly left scrambling as their income has been severely reduced. Currently, child and spousal support do not qualify as income for the purposes of Employment Insurance (EI), nor as revenue for the purpose of qualifying for CERB.

OPEN LETTER to Finance and Transportation Minister on emergency funding for Translink

We are writing to bring to your attention the serious financial difficulty of TransLink funding for public transit due to Covid 19. Since the novel coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, TransLink ridership in Metro Vancouver has gone down 80%, resulting in a $2.5 million revenue shortfall per day or a staggering $75 million revenue shortfall per month. Not only that, special measures have been in place in order to implement physical distancing rules as directed by public health officers: rear-door boarding, limited seating capacity and increases in cleaning and sanitizing requirements. The scheduled fare increase on July 1 has been suspended, due to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

TransLink plays a vital role in ensuring the 75,000 essential workers in our region, such as nurses, hospital workers, and grocery workers, get to work by public transit every day during Covid19. Without an immediate injection of funding from the federal government, TransLink may face insolvency as early as June. The revenue shortfall will also impact the HandyDART accessible transportation service.

OPEN LETTER to Social Development, Immigration and Employment Minister on government’s pandemic assistance as related to immigration processes

I am writing to inquire about the implications for those applying for and in receipt of the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), wage subsidy through the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), and other government financial assistance programs during the COVID-19 pandemic as they related to immigration processes. As you are aware, there are many immigration-related processes that are strictly tied to people’s ability to support themselves and/or that of their loved ones.
At the moment, we have an unprecedented pandemic and it is impacting people all across the country. Many businesses have had to substantially reduce their operation, some even had to close their doors due to COVID-19. Many workers had their hours of work substantially reduced if not outright reduced to zero.
The impact of this is far reaching for those engaged in the immigration process.

OPEN LETTER to Ministers of Innovation, Science and Industry, Social Development & Poverty Reduction, Advance Education, Skills and Training and Vancouver Mayor on the need for expansion of free Wifi access in DTES

One of the challenges that community members have brought to my attention during this pandemic is barriers to accessing internet from home during self-isolation. A constituent who is a senior contacted my office when after 19 days of social distancing, she has run out of internet data on her phone plan. She noted that many places where community members could previously access internet, such as libraries, community centers, and coffeeshops, have all closed due to the pandemic. While there are outdoor locations where free WiFi can be accessed, as an elderly person with a compromised immune system, she does not feel safe in going out, and rightly so.

OPEN LETTER to Deputy Prime Minister and Ministers on GIS recipients not able to file their tax by the end of April

As you know, seniors across Canada rely on the GIS to supplement their income. As GIS is assessed on income, seniors who receive their benefit must file income taxes on time to avoid having their benefit cut-off. The GIS cut-off generally takes place in July for seniors who have not filed their income taxes.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the deadline for filling taxes has been extended to June 1, 2020 for all Canadians. When the question of how this extension will pertain to seniors who receive GIS, I was informed that the ministry has committed to ensuring that no one’s GIS will be interrupted and that mechanisms to make that happen are being worked on.

OPEN LETTER to Immigration, Foreign Affairs and Public Safety Minister on new immigration measures needed during the pandemic

First, I urge that an automatic 6-month extension/renewal of temporary work permits and study visas be given to those here on a temporary status. This would reduce the amount of strain not only on IRCC, but additionally provide these temporary residents with a sense a relief during this difficult time. This automatic extension/renewal would only need to be in place until the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided. After this period the regular extension/renewal application process could resume once again.
This temporary measure would encompass those with a visitor visa, study permit or a work permit. According to your government website, as of April 2nd, the estimated processing time for renewing these permits is as follows:
        • Study permit: 120 days
        • Visitor Extension: 103 days
        • Work permit: 89 days

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