OTTAWA — The Conservative government plans to use the coming federal budget to underscore its pre-election messaging on the importance of national security.
The budget due Tuesday is expected to earmark resources to help security agencies carry out enhanced responsibilities under new anti-terrorism legislation, sources tell The Canadian Press.
Those familiar with the plan to make national security one of the budget’s themes spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Any new spending could help the government deflect criticism that it’s asking agencies to do more to counter terrorism at the expense of existing law-enforcement duties.
The anti-terrorism bill, currently before the Senate, would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service more power to thwart a suspect’s travel plans, disrupt bank transactions and covertly interfere with radical websites.
The legislation would also make it easier for the RCMP to obtain a peace bond to restrict the movements of suspects and extend the amount of time they can be kept in preventative detention.
In addition, it would shift responsibility for screening international airline manifests to the federal government under an expanded no-fly list regime.
The Conservatives introduced the bill after two soldiers were killed by jihadi-inspired “lone-wolf” attackers just days apart last October.
Concerns about the threat of homegrown extremism have prompted the RCMP to shift more than 600 officers to the terrorism file from organized crime and other areas.
“We have enough people who are working these cases, but they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told a House of Commons committee last month.
That has prompted vocal criticism from opposition public safety critics who say the Mounties are being stretched too thin.
At the same time, the federal government continues to roll out new aspects of its highly touted perimeter security arrangement with the United States — elements of which require investments in information-technology and modern facilities.
The Canada Border Services Agency already plans to invest $99 million over five years to improve buildings as well as upgrade technology to help officers record more traveller information.
However, several facets of the deal are still in the works, including:
An ambitious plan to track when people as they leave Canada, touted as a means of stopping would-be extremists from joining foreign conflicts;
A “next generation” policing program that would see Canadian and U.S. officials create integrated teams in areas such as intelligence and criminal investigations;
Cargo security initiatives intended to increase co-operation on the screening of marine shipments.