Nova Scotia

N.S. government announces plans to index income assistance to inflation rate

The Nova Scotia government is answering a long-standing call to index income assistance payments to the rate of inflation.

Change takes effect July 1 and will be retroactive to April 1

A man with glasses in a suit and tie stands at a microphone as people stand around him.
Community Services Minister Brendan Maguire speaks to reporters on Wednesday at Province House. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

The Nova Scotia government is answering a long-standing call to index income assistance payments to the rate of inflation.

Community Services Minister Brendan Maguire made the announcement on Wednesday. The change takes effect July 1 and will be retroactive to April 1. The rate being used for 2024-25 is 2.5 per cent. It marks the first increase to the rates in three years and will be worth between $9 and $35 a month more, depending on household composition.

Speaking with reporters at Province House, Maguire said the change is something he's fought for throughout his 10-year political career.

"I'm not going to BS you, I just never thought this was going to happen."

But Maguire got the opportunity to make it happen after he crossed the floor from the Liberals to the Tories last month and was named community services minister. Although he said he made no deals with Premier Tim Houston ahead of time, Maguire said he made it clear that indexing income assistance rates was a top priority.

"I think that we are going to be judged as a society on how we treat our most vulnerable people and one of the things that we can do is put a little extra money in their pocket."

Vulnerable Nova Scotians 'felt left out': minister

The move was not part of the Tories' budget, although income tax brackets and several other tax measures were indexed to the rate of inflation as part of that document.

"I think people felt — some people, some of our most vulnerable Nova Scotians — had felt left out of this conversation for a long time," said Maguire

He said past governments went years with only minor increases to income assistance rates, and this change will ensure some stability for recipients and the knowledge that there will be some type of increase each year.

The Tories did not increase income assistance rates through their first three budgets prior to Wednesday's announcement, although the current budget includes a new monthly disability payment of $300 for income assistance recipients who cannot work.

Maguire could not say why past governments have not indexed the rates, especially given how little it costs.

"If I had that answer I'd go out and buy a lottery ticket Friday night," he said.

Opposition reaction

Funding the change will cost about $7 million this year, and Maguire said the money will come from his department's existing budget. No programs will be short changed to finance it, he said.

"No one is going without."

NDP Leader Claudia Chender said advocates and income assistance recipients have fought for years for rates to be indexed and she paid tribute to them while speaking in the legislature.

"To all of those people I say, 'thank you, and this is an important day.'"

A collage of two images. One of a man in front of Nova Scotia flags. The other of a woman in front of Nova Scotia flags.
Zach Churchill is leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party and Claudia Chender is leader of the Nova Scotia NDP. (CBC)

Chender said the step will help, but still leaves people on income assistance "thousands and thousands of dollars below the poverty line in a time of record inflation.

"It's a good thing, but it's not enough."

Liberal Leader Zach Churchill who, like Maguire, was part of past Liberal governments that did not act on calls to index the rates, said the change would help many people struggling with the cost of living.

"I am pleased to hear that this is coming in," he said in the legislature. "This is overdue."

'I dare you to remove this policy'

Maguire predicted that the policy change is here to stay and that no future government would undo the work.

"Going forward, it doesn't matter who's in power now. I dare you, I dare you to remove this policy," he said.

Maguire said he and officials in his department will continue working with stakeholders and income assistance clients to determine what else can be done to "break the cycle of poverty."

He said he's scheduling meetings for after the spring session of the legislature to determine what needs to happen next to help the province's most vulnerable residents.

"I don't want to act like I have all the answers," said Maguire.

"I'm going to lean on Nova Scotians and I'm going to lean on the experts to tell me where we go next."


Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at