- Federal budget: March 22
- Government needs support of another party
- NDP has demanded more for seniors
A $700-million increase in old age security payments expected to be announced in next week's federal budget may save Stephen Harper's government, but it won't be enough to buy the country's poorest seniors a daily cup of coffee.
Increased support for low-income seniors is one of the New Democratic Party's key conditions for supporting the budget, and the Harper government has all but announced it will oblige.
One way or another, the Conservatives know that promising to help Canada's most impoverished senior citizens is smart politics on the eve of a possible election.
Elderly Canadians on the receiving end of the expected $700 million in increased government largesse, however, likely won't be booking a cruise any time soon.
Think $1.26 a day.
That's how much the average old age support cheque would increase for the poorest of the poor, the roughly 1.7 million Canadian seniors who receive both old age security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.
The average single pensioner receiving the supplement currently gets $455 a month in addition to $493 in basic old age security.
If the government decided to apply the entire $700 million in increased funding to the supplement, the average cheque would increase by just under $38 a month.
On the other hand, if the boost in federal funding is more widely distributed to all 4.8 million seniors who receive basic old age security, their windfall would add up to an average of about $9.85 a month.
That's 32 cents a day.
While the increase may not seem like much for the average low-income senior already struggling to get by on government assistance, the overall cost of providing old age security is not peanuts.
Even without any increases in the coming federal budget, taxpayers will shell out more than $37 billion this year just for old age security and income supplement payments.
That's over 15 per cent of the entire federal budget.