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Morneau Uses Economic Update to Talk About New Spending Plans

Bill Morneau
Finance Minister Bill Morneau receives applause before delivering his fall economic statement in the House of Commons in Ottawa, October 24. Image: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press.

OTTAWA — The Liberal government’s fall economic update talking points focused on what they want to spend money on: increasing benefits for the middle and working class, and making the tax system fairer too.

But the injection of $14.9 billion in fresh spending over the next five years – a windfall from Canada’s stronger-than-expected economic performance of late – includes billions the government finds itself having to spend, thanks to current events, legislation or just the cost of running a country.

The funds, officials said Tuesday, were not provided for in the 2017 budget, but the money has either been spent or set aside for the future with little or no fanfare.

Some of the funding represents the price tags for projects already on the go.

Among them: $526-million over five years for Health Canada, the RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency and Public Safety Canada to handle the legalization of marijuana. On top of that, about $150 million over six years is being set aside for devising and implementing new laws against drug−impaired driving.

Other legislation currently working its way through Parliament also comes with funds attached – a move to create the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency and overhaul national security transparency, as well as intelligence sharing, is projected to cost about $84-million over six years.

Ongoing work with First Nations will see $48-million over two years spent on supporting local First Nations governance.

Several new initiatives within the federal government itself are also getting a funding boost.

Status of Women Canada will receive $43-million over six years to increase its capacity, while Shared Services, the department that handles government information technology, is getting $359-million over six years to support its projects.

Global Affairs Canada gets $760-million to enhance security at embassies, funds that are coming after years of spending cuts in that regard. Canada’s diplomats will benefit from an additional $78-million, described in the documents released Tuesday as money to support international engagement, including efforts at the United Nations.

The government is also spending $4-million to permanently destroy the criminal records of Canadians convicted of engaging in consensual gay sex, once an illegal act. That’s part of a broader program underway within the government to address discrimination against thousands of LGBT workers in the Canadian military and public service between the 1950s and 1990s.

There’s also $1.4-billion over six years for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Coast Guard to maintain its fleet, though some of the funds will come from additional resources already on the books.

Some of the money has been previously announced in response to current events. It includes $262 million to support the softwood lumber industry; $5-million to help Manitoba account for a response to the opioid crisis, among other things; and $50 million for the response to wildfires in B.C.

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The Canadian Press