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Fisheries budget could be cut again

The federal government has already pared $57 million from Fisheries and Oceans Canada during the strategic review of 2010. Now, it may have to go through it all over again.  - The News/Files
The federal government has already pared $57 million from Fisheries and Oceans Canada during the strategic review of 2010. Now, it may have to go through it all over again.
— image credit: The News/Files

The federal government has already pared $57 million from Fisheries and Oceans Canada during the strategic review of 2010.

Now, it may have to go through it all over again as the federal government tries to wring more savings from the department in order to make budget.

Canada’s new Conservative government re-introduced its pre-election budget Monday. It calls for digging its way out of a $36-billion deficit this year to a $4-billion surplus by 2015.

Most of the budget was a repeat of the March document, with some changes in financial projections and addition of the plan to eliminate the $2-per-vote subsidy to political parties over four years.

“In order to make our deficit targets, we’ll continue with the process. I think most people agree – you can always find savings,” Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission MP Randy Kamp said Tuesday.

The budget was to get its first vote on Thursday, with two more votes next week before the House of Commons breaks on June 23 for summer.

The review of Fisheries, for which Kamp is parliamentary secretary, found savings of $57 million over three years, from 2011 to 2014. Another review could lead to more cuts.

“We looked at every single dollar. It was a very comprehensive. It took a long, long time.”

Kamp said, unlike the Liberal government under Paul Martin, the Conservatives and their new majority government will reach its deficit targets without cutting transfers to provinces or health spending.

Details of those cuts are in departmental spending.

Some of the highlights from the 2011 budget:

•contributing $150 million toward the construction of an all-season road between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk that completes the Dempster Highway;

• enhancing the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors who rely on their Old Age Security and the GIS and may therefore be at risk of experiencing financial difficulties – this measure will provide a new top-up benefit of up to $600 annually for single seniors and $840 for couples and represents an investment of more than $300 million per year, and will improve the financial security of more than 680,000 seniors across Canada;

• providing nearly $870 million over two years to address climate change and air quality, including the extension of the ecoENERGY Retrofit – Homes program that will help homeowners make their homes more energy efficient;

• legislating a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the Gas Tax Fund to provide predictable, long-term infrastructure funding for municipalities;

• providing renewed funding of almost $100 million over two years for research, development and demonstrations of clean energy and energy efficiency.

Kamp said there are no figures listed for expansion and renovation of the federal prison system, likely because those projects aren’t included on this year’s to-do list.

He said the Conservatives’ promise to disband the long-gun registry will happen. “I’m quite certain we’ll be proceeding with that, but when the legislation gets tabled, I’m not quite sure.”

Kamp’s NDP rival in the May 2 election, Maple Ridge Coun. Craig Speirs, wants the registry to remain.

“My opinion is that we keep it. Handguns kill gangsters, but long guns [rifles]) kill women and children. This is what the police say.”

Speirs said the NDP wants to fight crime by creating safe communities. “The issue is they want to put people in jail and spank them hard.

“Criminals will keep doing crime. You’ve got to get people out of the life.”

While he credited the government for continuing to ensure gas tax revenues go to the cities, he blasted it for continuing to cut fisheries and environment ministries and predicted Fisheries will go through another review this year and again be cut.

“They’ll be cutting the environment ministry and DFO to the bone.” It’s easy to find savings if you don’t care about what you’re cutting, he added.

Those departments have become politicized and have undergone “political terrorism” by the government.

“If you’re got to kowtow to protect your funding, you’ll kowtow.”

He also questioned whether the government can reach its deficit cuts.

“It’s not a pretty picture for any agency.”

Meanwhile, there still could be money to implement recommendations from the Cohen commission into the disappearance of the Fraser River sockeye. That should wrap up next year.

“We’re looking forward to what he recommends,” Kamp said.

After the May 2 election in which the Conservatives won a majority 166 seats and the NDP took over as official opposition with 103 (the Liberals were decimated to the status of a rump party with 34 members), Kamp said the layout of the House of Commons has changed.

“It different to be looking across at all those NDP members.”

For the first week at least, “there’s certainly a level of decorum.”

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