Ottawa – As Canada’s largest beef recall continues to expand and dominate headlines, the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) is reporting that the federal government is likely to spend millions of dollars less on food safety programs.
The PBO released its latest report, Monitoring Implementation of the Government’s Expense Plan, on Oct. 3.
In it, reports TheProvince.com, approved budgetary expenditures on “food safety and biosecurity risk management systems” at the Agriculture Department are 27 per cent lower in 2012-13 compared with the previous fiscal year, while planned “food safety program” funding is about five per cent less at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
The release of the report led to an emergency debate in the House of Commons, where, says TheProvince.com, the federal government denied it had cut any spending at the CFIA.
The PBO report on budgetary expenditures by Strategic Outcome and Program Activity says planned spending for “food safety and biosecurity risk management systems” at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is projected to be reduced by almost $32 million, to approximately $85 million in 2012-13 from more than $116 million in 2011-12.
At the CFIA, planned federal spending on the food safety program is projected to shrink almost $16 million, to $315 million in 2012-13 from $331 million in 2011-12, according to the PBO report.
TheProvince.com says Stephen Harper’s government had promised in the March federal budget an additional $51 million over two years to enhance food safety.
Since it came to power in 2006, the Conservative government says it has provided funding for the CFIA to hire more than 700 new inspection staff, including 170 dedicated to meat inspection.
But the union representing inspectors disputed those numbers, saying that 200 of those new staff are responsible for protecting the food chain from invasive species, not checking for E. coli.
TheProvince.com reports that officials have still not responded to the report or the spending reductions.