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Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference at Patro Roc-Amadour community centre in Quebec City on Aug. 26, 2021.MATHIEU BELANGER/Reuters

The Liberals are proposing a permanent annual increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors, part of a slew of promises targeted towards older Canadians.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Thursday that, if re-elected, his government would boost the GIS by $500 a person and $750 for couples, a move his party said would benefit 2.2 million seniors 65 and over.

The GIS is based on income and available to low-income pensioners who receive Old Age Security.

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“After a lifetime of hard work, you shouldn’t have to worry about how to pay the rent or fill a prescription,” he said.

“These are the things that will make a difference and lift even more seniors out of poverty than we have over the past years.”

Asked on Thursday how an average of $42 month is going to help low-income seniors, Mr. Trudeau said every dollar counts for many seniors. This reality became particularly clear during the pandemic when they have been “unbelievably vulnerable,” he added.

Laura Tamblyn Watts, the CEO of CanAge, a national seniors’ advocacy organization, said Thursday that low income seniors desperately need an increase to the GIS as living costs sky-rocket.

“While any increase is very welcome, an additional estimated $42 monthly does not come close to meeting that need,” she said.

The NDP is calling on Mr. Trudeau to reverse clawbacks to the GIS that occurred during the pandemic for seniors who also received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, making their income too high to qualify for the GIS.

“If Justin Trudeau wants to make life better for seniors, he should start today by fixing these cuts to income assistance for seniors,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

“While he’s letting huge corporations take public money and then give bonuses to executives, he’s cutting payments to seniors who aren’t going to have enough to make their bills at the end of the month,” Mr. Singh said in a statement.

Ms. Tamblyn Watts said that the Liberals have not addressed the “havoc” caused by a conflict between the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and GIS. She said her organization has been flooded with inquiries from seniors who received the CERB last year and as a result, no longer qualify for GIS or other income supports next year.

For single seniors, GIS benefits kick in if they make less than $18,984 annually, with a monthly maximum of $936. The eligibility threshold for couples is $45,504.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole released a campaign platform last week that promises a Canada Seniors Care benefit that would pay $200 per month per household to any Canadian who is living with and taking care of a parent over the age of 70.

The party also says it will expand the Home Accessibility Tax Credit and devote $3-billion of infrastructure funding over the next three years to renovate Long-Term Care Homes. The Conservative platform does not mention Old Age Security or the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

“Justin Trudeau has had six years to do this. Canadians know that they can’t trust Trudeau to get this done,” said Conservative Party spokesman Mathew Clancy.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said the Liberal pledge does not meet the demands of seniors, noting that it is less than $50 a month. He suggested that people should not be fooled.

Jean-Yves Duclos, an economist who has served as Treasury Board president, said Ottawa has invested significantly in the financial security of seniors including from an increase in the GIS in 2016. Mr. Duclos, who represents the competitive federal riding of Quebec and is seeking re-election, was asked Thursday if the Liberals were copy-and-pasting from the Bloc Quebecois’ plans.

“The Bloc Quebecois speak; we act,” he said.

The Bloc leader can promise whatever he wants but the Liberals are fighting for the people of Quebec, he added.

On the eve of the election call on Aug. 15, Mr. Trudeau’s government also announced a $500 one-time payment to seniors, regardless of income.

His government has also pledged to work with provinces and territories to spend $3-billion over five years to ensure national standards in long-term care, but advocates have said the move has taken too long and is being hampered by the election campaign.

The Liberals also promised to double the Home Accessibility Tax Credit, which would provide up to $1,500 in increased benefits, as well as a new multi-generational home renovation tax credit to allow families to add a secondary unit for relatives.

Meanwhile, Mr. O’Toole on Thursday continued his party’s theme this week of courting workers, by announcing a plan to protect gig economy employees by ensuring access to employment insurance (EI). He said a Conservative government would require gig economy companies to make contributions equivalent to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and EI premiums into a new employee savings account every time they pay their workers. He said the money would grow tax-free and can be used to pay CPP premiums or accumulated savings that can be withdrawn by the worker when they need it.

And Mr. Singh was in Winnipeg where he was spoke about affordable housing. He was also asked about Elections Canada’s decision to cancel on-campus voting this election and said it was something he’s concerned about.

“I want to make sure voting is as easy as possible and as many people as possible can vote,” he said. He added that he’s encouraging Elections Canada to reconsider the decision.

Young Canadians are less likely to vote, and an on-campus option makes it easier for them. In a Tweet this week, Elections Canada said they will not be able to run on-campus voting because of the challenges posed by “the pandemic and the minority government situation,” adding that the on-campus program takes months to plan.

With reports from Bill Curry and Menaka Raman-Wilms

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