The Conservative government expects to spend billions more this coming year on benefits for the elderly as a growing number of Canadians qualify for Old Age Security.
Federal spending plans for the fiscal year that starts on April 1 show spending on these benefits is expected to reach $46.1-billion in 2015-16, which is $4.3-billion more than was spent just two years earlier.
Another growing expense is the House of Commons budget, which is receiving a boost to accommodate the 30 additional MPs coming to Ottawa after the October election who will need salaries, and office budgets to hire staff.
The House of Commons budget is forecast to hit $443.4-million in 2015-16, up from $414.6-million in 2013-14.
Heather Bradley, a spokesperson for the Speaker's Office, said most of that amount is to account for the House of Commons growing from 308 to 338 MPs, while $5.7-million is for new computer equipment and $3.3-million is to manage the move to a new reporting system for MPs' expenses.
On Tuesday, Treasury Board President Tony Clement tabled the government's main estimates, which show that the government plans to spend $241.6-billion in the coming year. That is a 2.7-per-cent increase over last year's main estimates and a 4.3-per-cent increase over actual spending of $231.6-billion in 2013-14.
The federal government is attempting to keep a tight lid on its expenses for 2015-16, the year it is promising to show a balanced budget as it heads into a federal election.
Finance Minister Joe Oliver has said he will not release the 2015 budget until at least April, after the fiscal year has already begun.
The most recent actuarial report on the Old Age Security program estimated the number of Canadians eligible for the benefit will increase from 5.4 million in 2013 to 8.4 million by 2030.
The ratio of Canadians at the age of 20 to 64 – which is used as a rough estimate of the number of working taxpayers – to the number of Canadians aged 65 and over is projected to drop to 2.4 to one in 2030 from 4.1 to one in 2013.
The Conservative government has announced that, starting in April, 2023, the eligibility age for OAS and the Guaranteed Income Supplement for low-income OAS recipients will be 67 instead of the current 65.
The Parliamentary Budget Office has said the change, combined with a plan to cap the growth in health transfers to match the growth in the economy, will mean federal finances are sustainable over the long term.
However, the PBO released a new report on Tuesday that said a Conservative promise to double the tax-free savings account contribution limit would make it more difficult to finance OAS and GIS.
Eligibility for those programs is means-tested, and income from a TFSA does not count for those calculations. The PBO said this could allow seniors to shelter more income in a TFSA, meaning more people could be eligible for benefits or for more generous payouts.
Editor's note: an earlier version of this story online and in Wednesday's paper incorrectly said the most recent actuarial report on the Old Age Security program estimated the number of Canadians eligible for the benefit will increase from 394,000 in 2013 to 537,000 by 2030. Those are the figures for the number of people reaching the eligible age for OAS each year. In fact, the report said the estimated number of Canadians eligible for OAS will increase from 5.4 million in 2013 to 8.4 million in 2030.