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NEWS: Conservative budget expected in June

The Globe and Mail reports, “It was Stephen Harper’s surprise campaign pledge: The Conservatives would erase Canada’s deficit in three years rather than four. Now federal public servants will be under pressure to cut programs and trim staff to the tune of $11-billion over four years to deliver the Prime Minister’s promise.”

“The Conservatives project the deficit will drop to $29.6-billion this fiscal year and will become a surplus by 2014-15. When Parliament returns (likely on May 30), the government is expected to introduce a 2011 budget (in June) that is largely the same as the one that failed to win support in March – but this time with a more aggressive plan for the deficit. …The government’s March budget outlined a process in which a new cabinet committee chaired by the President of the Treasury Board would be in charge of cutting 5 per cent from across-the-board program spending – or $4-billion a year – by 2014-15. Every department will have to submit two plans to cabinet: a 5-per-cent cut and a 10-per-cent cut. Cabinet will make the final decision.”

“(John Baird has stated) some programs – like subsidies to political parties – will end.” At about $2.00 per vote, the subsidies cost $27.4 million in 2010. “Mr. Baird (also) says about 80,000 public servants are expected to leave within the next five to seven years, meaning attrition could be a source of savings. He said the government hasn’t set a target, though.”

The cutting is not expected to be equal across all departments. In March, just weeks before the budget was introduced, it had been reported that the Harper government was a projecting a $1.6 billion cut to environmental initiatives over the next year. That included a $222 million cut or 20 per cent less spending at Environment Canada. At the same time, Correctional Services Canada was to see its budget increased by $521 million, or more than 21 per cent, while the Canada Border Services Agency was to receive a $227 million increase, or 14 per cent more than the previous year.

And further on spending priorities, the 65 F-35 fighter jets that Harper plans to purchase have been estimated to cost over $100 million each. During the election, Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui pointed out that the purchase of two of these fighter jets would exceed what was allocated in the March budget to First Nation communities for drinking water. Energy and climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue noted that the cost of ten of the fighter jets could power a million Canadian homes on green electricity. We also highlighted that the Conservative government spent as much on the Fake Lake in Toronto for the G20 summit ($2 million) as they budgeted that year for the cleaning-up of each of the Great Lakes ($8 million total).

Jim Meek, a Halifax-based freelance writer and a principal of Public Affairs Atlantic Inc., recently wrote in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, “Stephen Harper wants to steal Canada away from the media, the Margaret Atwood survivalists, the Council of Canadians and the Group of Seven nationalists. And I have to say, after the prime minister’s stunning victory in Monday’s election, that the man’s making a pretty fair job of it. …(Harper doesn’t have patience for) those Canadians who oppose any change to health care, want to re-nationalize the post office, and make a modest annual contribution to the Council of Canadians. …For my part, I suspect Harper understands the values of Canadians better than many of us want to believe. And he won this week after remaking the country not in his own image, but in ours.”

We shall see.