Eventful week on many fronts

Last week in Ottawa saw the celebration of International Women’s Day, the hosting of a briefing with officials from FedNor, and the release of some “interesting” spending estimates by the Harper government.
Since 1977, member states of the United Nations have celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8 each year. This year, the theme was “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.”
The theme this year was especially important in our local context given that Thunder Bay recently was found to be most dangerous city in Canada for women to live in.
Recently-released data on police reports from Statistics Canada found that more than 173,600 women aged 15 and older were victims of violent crime in 2011—a rate of 1,207 victims for every 100,000 women in the population.
According to the same data, women living in Thunder Bay were assaulted or attacked at a rate of 1,905 times per 100,000 people—higher than any other census metropolitan area in the nation.
As a man who has lived and worked in and around Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario, I find this completely unacceptable. We all must do more to ensure that all of our friends, neighbours, and family all can live safely in their own homes, that our police and social services are properly funded and able to carry out their work effectively, and that our streets, workplaces, and homes become places of safety and comfort for all citizens and especially women.
More must be done, so I am hopeful that you will join me in raising awareness of the issue and increasing our effort to improve the safety and quality of life for women in Thunder Bay, Northwestern Ontario, and Canada.
Last week, my office also hosted an information session with NDP MPs and the director general of FedNor.
Before discussing the meeting, I would like to thank the Industry minister’s office for agreeing to this meeting and allowing it to go ahead. The briefing was very informative as we learned about the operations, budget, and staffing at FedNor, as well as the specific programs the agency delivers to residents and communities.
Many procedural questions that our MPs and staff had were clearly answered and I feel that we all are better informed and able to assist our constituents as a result.
To wrap up the past week in Ottawa, MPs got our first glance at the Harper government’s spending estimates for 2013-14. The estimates usually follow the presentation of the federal budget, but for the last year or two we’ve been getting them beforehand.
It’s a bit unusual for a government to do this and some of the spending changes raised a few eyebrows in our research department to be sure. Here are some of the year-over-year changes that we think we’ve found so far.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will see spending down 17.5 percent ($357 million) from last year’s estimates and down $96 million overall from the 2012 main estimates.
Cuts to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), meanwhile, continue after the staffing layoffs last year. Operating expenditures, contributions, and recoverable expenditures on behalf of CPP and EI reduced are by nearly $100 million.
And the Justice Department will see a $60.5-million reduction (8.4 percent) compared with the last budget estimates and a $37.1-million reduction (5.3 percent) compared with the 2012-13 main estimates.
These are just a few policy areas and agencies. But the early look at the estimates shows a federal government that is retreating from—and diminishing its role in—areas it previously has described as “priorities.”
It will be interesting to see how these circles are squared in the federal budget that’s likely to be presented to Parliament before the end of the month.