Federal budget makes border security a priority (February 01, 2002)
February 1, 2002
OTTAWA, Ont. - The Canadian government has unveiled its first budget in nearly two years, and border security topped the list of spending priorities.Nearly $7.7 billion in new security spending was an...
OTTAWA, Ont. – The Canadian government has unveiled its first budget in nearly two years, and border security topped the list of spending priorities.
Nearly $7.7 billion in new security spending was announced Dec. 10 – $1.2 billion will go towards improved border crossing security and efficiency. The government stressed border security measures won’t hinder trade between Canada and the U.S.
A further $2 billion will be devoted toward infrastructure programs such as roads and bridges. Although the nation’s debt won’t be paid down this year or next, the budget predicts the economy will grow by 1.3 per cent in 2001 and up to 3.9 per cent in 2003.
Finance Minister, Paul Martin, says the border spending will help Canada “create the most modern, sophisticated border possible, using state of the art technology to speed legitimate traffic while stopping those who would do our country harm.”
Canadian Trucking Alliance chief executive officer, David Bradley, says the budget was acceptable, given the current state of affairs.
“Overall, given the state of affairs, we thought it was a pretty good budget. I think it was a pretty strong signal to the U.S. that Canada is taking the issue of terrorism and ensuring we have a secure North America very seriously,” says Bradley. “We have the money to fund the types of security systems that are going to be needed to provide the Americans with confidence in those systems.”
Bradley says it was essential Canada make border security a priority, so the U.S. doesn’t feel the need to close up the border to trade altogether.
“We first have to get the Americans confident we’re dealing with security issues appropriately before we can hope to get them to the table to deal with facilitation issues,” says Bradley.
As far as the spending on roads and infrastructure, Bradley says the trucking industry will take what it can get.
“There’s some additional money for highway infrastructure and while of course we’d always like to see more money, I think that was a good step and it indicates the government is certainly now aware of the importance of trade and the important role trucks play with regards to trade,” says Bradley.
He also gives kudos to the government for some of the smaller points in the budget.
“There are a couple other goodies as well,” says Bradley. “The fact that there’s now a tax credit of some sort for apprentice mechanics.”
Albert Sykes, executive director of the National Association of Professional Drivers, says owner/operators would have been better served if more money went towards improving the roads.
“Between us and the Americans, I don’t see where border tightening needs to take place,” says Sykes.
He says Canada should follow in the footsteps of the U.S. and dedicate more money from fuel taxes towards improving highways.
“Their infrastructure and roads are 20 years ahead of us,” says Sykes. “In the States, 88 per cent of their fuel taxes go back into infrastructure and reconstruction but in Canada we’re lucky if we get eight per cent.”
He says it costs O/Os money, as their equipment takes a beating running Canada’s deteriorated roads.
The usual political opponents were quick to slam the new budget, lead by now resigned opposition leader Stockwell Day, who dubbed the budget: “2001, A Waste Odyssey.” He went on to say “This is one of the worst cases of missed priorities I’ve ever seen when it comes to federal spending.”
But some business representatives applauded the new budget, including Catherine Swift of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
“From a security standpoint and to include a few measures to just get us through the next few months when the economy has slowed … I think this document fit the bill,” Swift says.