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Finance Minister Jim Flaherty answers questions in the lockup prior to the release of the federal budget in Ottawa Thursday, March 29, 2012. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty answers questions in the lockup prior to the release of the federal budget in Ottawa Thursday, March 29, 2012. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Globe reporters answer your budget questions Add to ...

After the budget was released, The Globe's Ottawa bureau asked readers to send in their questions about how the government plans to balance the books. Here's a selection of their responses, and join us at noon (ET) today for a live discussion with our reporters.

Which government departments will be hit the hardest? - From reader Dan How many jobs will be lost in Ottawa? - From reader Marc V

More related to this story

Answer from reporter Tamara Baluja: The federal government will be handing out pink slips to roughly 19,200 federal jobs, including eliminating some 600 executive positions.

Unfortunately, the government hasn’t made it very clear which departments will face the deepest cuts. That’s because while they do state which departments will face the biggest cuts in absolute dollars, this value is meaningless unless it’s put into context as a percentage.

Departments and ministries all have varying spending limits, so it’s difficult to compare these figures.

Here’s what we do know: The planned cuts are a percentage of the certain unspecified “review base” of $75.3-billion. The government will cut spending by $5.2-billion in ongoing savings, of which 70 per cent, they say are due to operating efficiencies.

Is there any word on funding for research? I know CIHR had a portion of its funding cut. Any news on SSHRC or NSERC? - From reader Sandeep Mishra

Answer from post-secondary education reporter James Bradshaw: All three granting councils were asked to find “savings,” so they did cut programs. However, every penny was then reinvested in different programs within the granting councils.

There are a number of other investments in research, such as $60-million to Genome Canada, $17-million for isotope research, and another $500-million over five years for research infrastructure through the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The bottom line is the research community suffered no cuts really and most of those redistribution was focused on industry- or business-related research.

As an artist, I'm curious about arts funding - anything cut there vis a vis Canada Council? Thanks. - From reader Teresa

From reporter Carys Mills: The Canada Council for the Arts was spared from the cuts that some other departments faced within the heritage portfolio. The National Gallery of Canada and national museums are also safe, at least based on the reviews that departments undertook to prepare for cost-cutting scenarios of five and 10 per cent.

Arts-related programs, however, like the CBC, the CRTC, the National Arts Centre Corporation, the National Film Board of Canada and Telefilm Canada are expected to see a range of cuts over the next three years.

Any good news for young people? At all? And I don't mean a bit of funding to help people find (non-existent) jobs. - From reader Mike Johnson

From reporter Tamara Baluja: Ottawa has committed $275-million over the next three years to support First Nations education and build/renovate schools on reserve. This is a key piece of the urgent request made by the Assembly of First Nations to generally improve the plight of aboriginal children, and also follows up on the federally appointed panel’s recommendations. On top of that, an extra $50-million over two years will the given to the Youth Employment Strategy, which helps youth get skills and experience. That's in addition to the $330-million in regular annual funding – but as you say, there is no guarantee of jobs.

The bad news? The Katimavik program, which allows youth to volunteer across Canada, is being cut.

Any indication that this is the start of an on-going change to bump retirement benefits later and later? For example the next budget will push the age to 68, then 69 and so on? - From reader JasonW

From reporter Tamara Baluja: There is nothing in this budget to say the age of eligibility for OAS will rise again, or that this is a repetitive clawback.

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