Tories slash program funding

Back on Sept. 25, Treasury Board president John Baird and Finance minister Jim Flaherty announced $1 billion in spending cuts to the federal government—on the same day they announced a $13.2-billion surplus for 2005-06.
Despite this generous surplus, they are making cuts to programs that have been proven effective and necessary tools to helping individuals and communities.
The new Tory government is touting these cuts as “refocusing spending on the priorities of Canadians,” however, these funding cuts directly target those who are most in need of assistance.
< *c>Economic development
On Aug. 8 of this year, the FedNor website noted the minister confirmed a five-year renewal of FedNor’s budget at $45.5 million per year, which is $6.4 million less than the previous Liberal commitment of $51.9 million.
On Sept. 25, the government further cut economic development programs by almost $40 million, eliminating the national Social Economy Initiative. That included roughly $9 million, which was to be administered by FedNor for all of Ontario.
The program was targeted to provide financial support for capacity building projects that enhance the ability of communities to develop social economy enterprises, including opportunity identification, business planning, management training, marketing, partnership development, and skills evaluation.
< *c>Literacy
The cuts to literacy—$5.8 million in 200607 and $11.9 million in 2007-08—mean that local and regional literacy programs no longer will be funded by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.
The department’s new mandate is to concentrate on national and federal programs alone.
This change jeopardizes the delivery of programs to many learners whose literacy challenges hinder their ability to function fully at home, in the community, and in the workplace.
Margaret Eaton, president of ABC Canada Literacy Foundation, has called these cuts “a short-sighted move that will imperil Canadians’ welfare and impede Canada’s productivity and economic growth.”
< *c>Minority groups
The Conservative government’s elimination of the Court Challenges Program will strip minority groups of the ability to challenge legislation that infringes on their rights.
The program provided financial assistance to individuals and groups who were pursuing legal action to advance language and equality rights under Canada’s constitution.
The program provided Canadians with the means to challenge laws or legislation that otherwise may go untested.
Lawyer David Baker is a specialist in disability law. He has used the Court Challenges Program to win sign language interpretation for deaf clients, to require VIA Rail to make its trains wheelchair accessible, and to ensure that caregivers get fair pensions.
“I have a huge concern that these kinds of cases won’t go forward now,” he said.
< *c>Canadian heritage
The cut of $4.6 million from the Museums Assistance Program is disturbing. Museums are vital to our history and already are facing severe financial challenges.
This cut will further reduce the abilities of local museums to provide quality services to the communities in which they operate.
< *c>Tourism
The elimination of the Visitor GST Rebate Program is yet another blow to the tourism industry in Northwestern Ontario.
The decision comes at a bad time for the Canadian tourism and travel industries, which already are reeling from the rapid appreciation of the Canadian dollar, higher fuel prices, security-driven delays at the border, and confusing new rules about travel documents to which Americans soon will be subject under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.
All of this has been reflected in the drop in visits by Americans to Canada in the last five years.
< *c>Volunteerism
The elimination of funding for the Canada Volunteerism Initiative will be felt across the country. Volunteerism is imperative to the success of our communities, yet the government has labelled this a “non-core program.”
Marlene Deboisbriand, president of Volunteer Canada remarked, “Volunteerism in Canada has come under serious threat this week . . . this cutting of $9.7 million directly affects many voluntary sector organizations.”
How can you help?
I need your support to hold the government to account on these funding cuts. Send me a letter or e-mail, or start a petition to call on the government to reinstate the funding they have so ruthlessly cut from these valued programs.

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