Early projections suggest hike in some vets programs as overall budget shrinks

The Harper government’s road map to this year’s federal budget suggests it is prepared to pour more money into programs and services for the country’s veterans, while largely holding the line on defence spending.

OTTAWA — The Harper government’s road map to this year’s federal budget suggests it is prepared to pour more money into programs and services for the country’s veterans, while largely holding the line on defence spending.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement released the 2015-16 spending estimates on Tuesday, even though it’s unclear when the budget will be tabled.

The Conservative government’s final fiscal plan before this year’s election was postponed until at least April by Finance Minister Joe Oliver, who said he needed the time to assess the impact of collapsing oil prices.

The government has been under mounting political pressure to improve the suite of benefits and entitlements for ex-soldiers.

The estimates, which are not the final word on the budget, project modest increases in the amount spent on disability awards and supplementary benefits.

Despite that, overall spending at Veterans Affairs is expected to decline by 1.5 per cent— or $54 million next year, something federal officials attribute to the declining number of Second World War and Korean War veterans.

Veterans Affairs Canada spends just over $3.5 billion per year.

Over at National Defence, another politically-charged portfolio, spending is expected to increase by 1.5 per cent — $280 million — in the coming year, bringing the military budget to $18.9 billion.

Officials say they will be saving $709.2 million in capital costs, some of which is likely related to the cancellation of the army’s plans for a close-combat vehicle and delays in acquiring maritime helicopters for the air force.

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