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Politics Budget offers only $8-million in new funds to combat terrorism

Finance Minister Bill Morneau holds a news conference before the release of his federal budget in Ottawa on March 22, 2016.

FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Justin Trudeau's first budget offers $8-million over two years to combat "radicalization" in Canada but little else in new funding to help Canadian police or security agencies fight terrorism of the kind that struck in Belgium Tuesday.

The Liberal government's fiscal plan comes months after deadly shootings in Paris by Islamic State militants. Another terror attack rocked Brussels Tuesday, killing dozens and injuring more.

The 2016 budget provides $35-million over five years to combat radicalization in Canada starting with $3-million in the 2016-17 fiscal year and $5-million in 2017-18. The Office of the Community Outreach and Counter-radicalization Co-ordinator will "provide leadership on Canada's response to radicalization," the budget said.

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The fiscal plan also provides infrastructure cash to modernize the facilities used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canadian Security Intelligence Service and Canada Border Services Agency.

Pressed why the Liberals didn't provide more operating funds or capital spending for the Mounties or CSIS to fight terrorism, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said public safety is a priority for the Liberals.

"I want to say this is obviously a very important topic for us and reinforced on a day like today," Mr. Morneau said, referring to the attacks in Belgium. "We are working together with provinces and territories and expect to make a real difference in this area over the course of the next few years."

Conservative public safety critic Erin O'Toole said the lack of new cash to fight terrorism is disappointing. "That's not the kind of front-line resources that people want to see in this age where radicalized terror attacks have become commonplace in the last few years."

In February, CSIS received extra funding to provide intelligence support services to the revised campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria that was announced by the Liberals. Government officials refused Monday to say how much CSIS received.

In the 2015 federal budget, the former Conservative government committed $292.6-million in new funding over five years to help security and intelligence agencies investigate and fight terrorism.

New security spending in the 2016 budget also includes $14-million over five years, starting in 2016-17, for the Canada Border Services Agency to screen cross-border commerce to prevent the spread of "weapons of mass destruction" and other illegally obtained goods.

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The federal government is also spending $77.4-million over five years, starting in 2016-17, to ward off hackers. The budget says Ottawa will "implement new measures to improve the security of government networks and information technology systems." Several years ago, the government announced that Chinese state hackers had attacked National Research Council computers in an attempt to gain access to the broader federal government cyber infrastructure.

Other measures include:

– $60.4-million over five years for a new RCMP forensic laboratory at the same location as the RCMP's regional headquarter in Surrey, B.C.

– $15.5-million over five years, starting in 2016-17, to restore funding to urban search and rescue task forces in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Manitoba, and to work with provinces to expand capacity in underserved regions.

– $23.6-million over five years to reopen the Kitsilano Search and Rescue Lifeboat Station in Vancouver.

– $45.9-million over two years to the Canadian Coast Guard to improve the dependability and efficiency of aids to navigation and structures that support marine communication and traffic services.

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