Conservatives make big spending cuts to transport safety while touting safety

The Harper government has made dramatic cuts in spending on aviation, marine and rail transport safety over the past five years, even as it touted new safety measures in the transportation sector.

OTTAWA — The Harper government has made dramatic cuts in spending on aviation, marine and rail transport safety over the past five years, even as it touted new safety measures in the transportation sector.

The latest figures from the public accounts of the government of Canada reveal that actual spending by Transport Canada on marine safety has plunged 27 per cent since 2010, while aviation and rail safety spending are both down 20 per cent or more.

Budget cuts to marine and rail safety have come over a particularly sensitive period, during which oil-by-rail shipments increased exponentially and the government spent millions promoting the safe transport of oil by tankers on Canada’s coasts in order to bolster pipeline approvals.

Last month, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced that 10 additional rail safety auditors would be hired across Canada in response to the horrific oil train crash last year in Lac Megantic, Que., that claimed 47 lives.

Raitt says Transport Canada has plenty of budget room to handle the new hires without additional funding.

Transport Canada officials say that “core services” remain properly funded and that savings have come from cuts in overhead and administration.

That’s precisely the claim that the independent parliamentary budget office wants to test, but has been repeatedly stonewalled by multiple government departments that refuse to disclose how and where they are slashing their budgets.

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