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$17.5-million spent on security during Obama visit: fiscal update to Parliament

By Tim Naumetz      

Economic update also includes an additional $800-million for military and development assistance in Afghanistan and central and eastern Europe; $10-million to help Montreal celebrate its 375th anniversary; $382.5-million to child and family services for First Nations children; and $1.4-billion to boost the immigration target to 300,000 people per year between now and 2022.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled the fall economic update today in the House of Commons. The Hill Times photograph by Sam Garcia

The federal government spent $17.5-million on security when U.S. President Barack Obama visited Ottawa for a summit of North America’s three national leaders last June, show spending details revealed Tuesday in the government’s annual fall fiscal update to Parliament.

The cost of heavy security and protection for President Obama, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto at the June 29 summit is contained in a list of $2.8-billion-worth of costs and forecast spending due to “policy actions” the government has taken since the first Liberal budget last March.

Of the total, $1.1-billion worth of the spending and forecast costs had not been released prior to the fiscal and economic statement Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled in Parliament, the document says.

“The net fiscal impact of measures that are not announced is presented at the aggregate level, and would include provisions for anticipated Cabinet decisions not yet made and funding decisions related to national security, commercial sensitivity and litigation issues,” says a footnote in the statement to Parliament.

The spending details, some of which would normally be included in other estimates tabled later in the year, also disclose the government is hiking military and development assistance in Afghanistan and central and eastern Europe by more than $800-million over the next three to four years. The military and aid spending includes $465-million on renewed development and security in Afghanistan and $348-million in a renewal of military deployment to counter Russian threats near Ukraine and the Baltic region.

As well, the government spent $104.5-million on assistance to residents of Fort McMurray, Alta., after the oil sands city was ravaged by wildfires, through matching funds with private donations from across the country.

The mini-budget also disclosed the government has significantly increased the budget for a national commission of inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. The government initially earmarked $40-million for the inquiry in the 2016 Budget last March, and then amped that up to $53.8-million when it revealed more details in August. The new budget is $70.1-million over four years, according to the update.

Meanwhile, the government has also budgeted a total of $15.5-million for the establishment and support of a special committee of MPs and senators to provide oversight of the entire range of government security services and branches, and $10.9-million to commemorate world war “milestones” in 2017.

Also buried in the list of spending decisions is an allotment of $10-million through this year and 2017 to help Montreal celebrate its 375th anniversary.

Other new spending plans from policy decisions since the March budget include a total of $382.5-million over three years to improve child and family services for First Nations children, and another $149.8-million from 2017 to 2022 on a recently announced program to remove sex-based discrimination in registration provisions under the archaic Indian Act.

The government’s recently announced goal for immigration levels—up to 300,000 immigrants a year—is expected to cost a total of $1.4-billion through to 2022.

A new government policy making talk shows eligible for a tax credit for federal film or video productions is forecast to cost $135-million from the current fiscal year through to April, 2022.

A government decision to strengthen the national immigration detention system is forecast to cost $50.9-million over five years.

The new spending details are included in a mini-budget that otherwise highlights $81.2-billion over the next 11 years in new infrastructure spending, the lion’s share going to public transit, at $25.3-billion, along with $21.9-billion each for green infrastructure and spending on social infrastructure.

When it comes to deficits, the report states that the “budgetary balance is expected to show deficits of $25.1 billion in 2016–17 and $27.8 billion in 2017–18. Over the remainder of the forecast horizon, deficits are expected to decline significantly from $25.9 billion in 2018–19 to $14.6 billion in 2021–22.”

The plan also includes a new federal government infrastructure bank, responsible for a total of $35-billion worth of loans, loan guarantees, and equity investments in large-scale infrastructure program, including $15-billion from the pool for loans and loan guarantees on public transit, green and social infrastructure projects, as well as trade infrastructure, and development of transportation and northern and rural communities.

The remaining $20-billion will be available for equity or debt investments, which the Finance Department says will not result in a fiscal impact for the government.

“Today is about the long term,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau (Toronto Centre, Ont.) said shortly before delivering a speech on the economic and fiscal update in the House of Commons.

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