Terrorism, organized crime prompt millions more for border

As U.S. President Donald Trump eyes border security, the Trudeau government is investing millions to offset growing pressures along the Canada-U.S. border, including organized crime and the threat of terrorism.

On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump said you can never be 'totally' sure about border security

The Canada Border Service Agency is getting millions more to increase security and reduce border wait times. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

As U.S. President Donald Trump eyes border security, the Trudeau government is investing millions to offset growing pressures along the Canada-U.S. border, including organized crime and the threat of terrorism.

According to supplementary estimates tabled Tuesday in the House of Commons, the federal government is giving the Canada Border Services Agency an additional $85.5 million.

"The agency is facing operational pressures due to changing volumes across business lines, growth in international commerce and the threats of terrorism and organized crime," the government wrote in the documents.

"This funding will be used to maintain service levels for wait times and inspection rates at major points of entry and to improve the capacity for export control over high-risk goods leaving Canada."

The CBSA will also get another $32.4 million in funding "for integrity of Canada's border operations."

News of the federal government's additional border-related spending comes as the election of Trump is focusing more attention on the fight against terrorism and border security.

New spending on border comes amid concerns from U.S. President Donald Trump about border security. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Following a face-to-face meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Washington on Monday, Trump was asked whether he considered his country's border with Canada to be secure. He replied: "You can never be totally confident."

While the supplementary estimates were approved by cabinet last week, well before Trump made that comment, the new U.S. president has talked extensively about border security and protecting the United States from terrorist attacks.

Visa changes

The Trudeau government is also predicting that its decision to lift the visa requirement for citizens of Mexico will lead to "irregular migration pressures," prompting it to give the CBSA another $6.3 million, the Immigration Department $1.2 million and the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) $4.6 million.

The CBSA is also getting an extra $5.7 million to deal with the 300,000 immigrants called for in its 2017 immigration levels plan. For this, the Immigration Department will get $8.2 million and the IRB gets $369,383.

Altogether, the CBSA will be getting an extra $151.2 million in funding, increasing its authorized spending for 2016-17 to $1.9 billion, up from $1.8 billion.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment are getting more money for intelligence gathering in the fight against ISIS. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The extra money for the CBSA is part of $1.5 billion in new funding being proposed as the federal government finishes its fiscal year, ending March 31. Once approved by Parliament, the supplementary estimates would increase federal spending for the year to $257.7 billion, up from the $250.2 billion outlined in the original main estimates.

The border isn't the only item related to Trump's priority list that is getting more money.

In addition to the $381 million the government allocated to fight ISIS and address the crises in Iraq and Syria in previous supplementary estimates, Ottawa is now adding $8.7 million for intelligence-gathering by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE).

On the home front, the government appears confident it is about to reach deals with a number of public-sector labour unions — so confident that the supplementary estimates allocate $545 million to Treasury Board.

"Given the number of collective agreements that may be ratified in the coming weeks, this funding provides the government with capacity to address pressures that could be realized by the end of the fiscal year," the tabled documents say.

Loans to students, Cuba

Another $350 million is being transferred to the province of Saskatchewan, along with ownership of 19 dams.

"Transferring the federal dams and funding will provide the Government of Saskatchewan's Water Security Agency with necessary infrastructure to meet its provincial water management objectives."

Canada will forgive $18 million in loans to Cuba, according to the supplementary estimates. Trudeau visited Cuba and met with President Raul Castro in November 2016.

Ottawa has also decided to write off millions in loans for students, immigrants and Cuba.

As it has many times in the past, the Department of Employment and Social Development is writing off 32,554 "unrecoverable" student loans worth a total $178.4 million. The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Department will write off $2 million in "outstanding immigration loans." And Global Affairs is forgiving $18 million worth of loans to the government of Cuba.

Trudeau paid an official visit to Cuba in November.

Another $133 million is being allocated to groups helping developing countries tackle climate change. The government is earmarking another $174 million for humanitarian aid to help populations hit by the impacts of El Nino and by antimicrobial resistance.

And National Defence will transfer $1.9 million to Global Affairs "to assist and enhance capacity in Guatemala to target illicit trafficking and criminal activities."


Elizabeth Thompson

Senior reporter

Award-winning reporter Elizabeth Thompson covers Parliament Hill. A veteran of the Montreal Gazette, Sun Media and iPolitics, she currently works with the CBC's Ottawa bureau, specializing in investigative reporting and data journalism. She can be reached at: elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca.


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