ACOA faces budget cut

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency would have to do its work with $15 million less a year under the terms of the new federal budget, but the minister in charge of the agency says none of that money will come from core programs.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency would have to do its work with $15 million less a year under the terms of the new federal budget, but the minister in charge of the agency says none of that money will come from core programs.

"We went through a strategic review, we came up with plans that we thought were workable within the organization," said Keith Ashfield.

"It's in the best interest of Canadians and it would be irresponsible for us as a government not to review our departments on a regular basis, just like any good business would do."

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered his sixth budget for Prime Minister Stephen Harper Tuesday. It includes a cut to the funding for ACOA, Atlantic Canada's main economic development agency. Flaherty said ACOA will see almost $15 million cut from its budget by 2014.

Wayne Easter, the Liberal MP for Malpeque in central P.E.I., said he's worried about what the cuts might mean for the future of ACOA.

"Those cuts, added on top of those cuts previously announced in the estimates, are very, very serious," Easter said. "Can ACOA even function under those terms? That's my concern."

In an email from Ashfield's office, a government spokesperson told CBC News the agency had already identified about $1 million in savings through various measures.

The spokesperson said the budget cut was made possible by improving efficiency at the agency, for example, by cutting travel and conference participation costs, and reducing the need for printing by moving towards web-based communications.

Shell game

Cape Breton Canso MP Roger Cuzner said the Conservatives are playing a shell game with the budget: It draws attention to a few positive things while masking all of the bad ones.

"Sort of reminds me, there was a friend of mine who tried to sell me a car one time. It was burning oil and the transmission was slipping but he said, 'But yeah, listen to the radio. It's got a great radio,'" Cuzner said.

"There's some things here in the window that get the attention of Canadians, but the fact is that it comes up far short and does nothing to address spending concerns going forward."

All the opposition parties have announced they will vote against the budget. That means Canadians will likely go to the polls to elect a new federal government this spring.