Medical marijuana takes hit as Tories announce $1 billion in cuts, streamlining

September 24, 2006

Canadian Press,

OTTAWA (CP) - Everything from medical marijuana to pine beetles took a hit Monday as the Conservative government announced $1 billion in spending cuts and streamlining across all federal departments.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty also announced that the government recorded a $13.2-billion surplus in the last fiscal year and that all the cash will go toward paying down the national debt.

"Taxpayers have the right to expect that their tax dollars are being used for programs that provide good value," Flaherty said in releasing his annual financial report.

"This has not always been the case and, in fact, we have discovered numerous examples of waste and duplication.

"Canada's new government is trimming the fat and refocusing spending on the priorities of Canadians."

Among the "fat" being cut:

-The $4-million medical marijuana research program.

-$11.7 million in unused funding for the mountain pine beetle fund.

-Administrative savings of $5 million from status of women agency.

Word of the pine beetle savings came on the same day that a federal government report concluded the massive pine beetle infestation in B.C. is threatening other species of trees and could spread across the country.

The so-called expenditure review focused on areas where Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government did not see value for money.

The review was led by Treasury Board President John Baird who is also in charge of shepherding the Federal Accountability Act through Parliament.

After the surplus is applied, the national debt will stand at $481.5 billion.

Highlights from Monday's list of 66 programs, initiatives and other areas being eliminated or reduced to help the federal government save $1 billion over the next two years:

-End to visitor-rebate program that gave tax refunds to tourists: savings, $78.8 million.

-Smaller cabinet announced last February: $46.8 million.

-Administrative reductions to Status of Women: $5 million.

-End to medical marijuana science funding: $4 million.

-Cuts to museums assistance: $4.6 million.

-'Efficiencies' in Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.: $45 million.

-Removal of unused funds for mountain pine beetle initiative: $11.7 million

-Elimination of of Court Challenges Program: $5.6 million.

-Cancellation of National Defence radar project: $13.9 million.

-Consolidation of foreign missions: $4.5 million.

-Cuts to Law Commission of Canada: $4.2 million.

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