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After mass protests push back Ford agenda: Stop Harper's budget cuts

John Bell

January 23, 2012

Budget cuts and staff layoffs have paralyzed many federal ministries that provide crucial services. And rumours from Ottawa warn that even deeper cuts will be in the next Tory budget, due early in March.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is already facing cuts of $21.5 million. That will lead to layoffs of up to more than 230 full-time inspection positions.

Some 170 of those inspection jobs were created by the Tories in 2008, reversing earlier cuts. They didn’t do it out of public spirit; they were forced to act to quell outrage following an outbreak of deadly listeria food poisoning in meat processing plants, causing the deaths of 23 people and sickening hundreds more.

Bob Kingston, president of the Agriculture Union representing the inspectors warned: “Food safety costs money, but less safety can cost a lot more–both in terms of money and human suffering.”

Tory Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. Ritz dismissed concerns over cuts as “union tactics”, and claimed that “Canadian families can be assured that the safety of our food supply will not be affected as federal departments and agencies look for ways to be more efficient and more financially prudent with taxpayer’s dollars.”

Harper’s government, which wraps itself in “support our troops” rhetoric, is already cutting $220 million from Veterans Affairs Canada. The Public Service Alliance of Canada projects that this will translate into 500 lost jobs.

Minister Steve Blaney justified the cuts by saying that 1500 veterans die each month. His department objects to the use of the word “cuts”. “We simply expect to have a lower uptake for our programs to fewer veterans,” said Deputy Minister Keith Hillier.

As the official unemployment rate rises to 7.4 per cent, Employment Insurance workers are being laid off. In August Human Resources Minister Diane Finley shut down 98 local EI processing centres resulting in 1200 lost jobs.

“With continuous improvements to the way that we do business, such as increased automation, improved online services, and a nationally-managed workload distribution, Service Canada will be able to manage service demands in a more cost-effective and efficient way,” said Finley’s press secretary. Tell that to EI applicants who have seen their wait times for their first benefit cheque double.

In ministry after ministry, the cuts are breaking down services that workers and their families need most. The only federal sectors declared “off limits” for Tory cuts are the RCMP and military spending.

A mass grassroots campaign pushed back millions of cuts threatened by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, and much bigger mobilizations are needed to beat back the Harper attack.

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