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Federal spending to hit $200-billion in 2010

Plan includes billions in new funding for students, immigrants and workers

Globe and Mail Update

Ottawa — Federal spending will hit $200-billion a year starting in 2010 under a plan unveiled by the Liberal government Monday that includes billions in new funding for students, immigrants and workers.

The spending for the current year is planned at $163.7-billion, which is already up by $2.6-billion from the February budget.

The Liberals are forecasting a continuous series of increases in total federal spending, reaching $203.6-billion in the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

Some of the increases are linked to mandatory spending such as payments to elderly Canadians, while others represent new money for Liberal priorities.

In a mini-budget, Finance Minister Ralph Goodale said that Canada's future economic success is related to improved access to education, a better integration of immigrants into the workforce, and better training for workers.

Mr. Goodale promised new funding to ensure the continuous modernization of Canada's economy and its workforce, with a focus on post-secondary education and research. Overall, he committed $9.2-billion in new funding for higher learning and skills training.

"In today's world, the greatest point of differentiation — the real basis of competitive advantage — is brainpower. An idea can create whole new industries. Knowledge and creativity have become the true measures of economic potential," Mr. Goodale said in his presentation to the Commons Finance Committee.

As part of the new spending, the Liberals promised $2.1-billion in financial assistance for post-secondary education, targeted at low- and middle-income Canadians, over the next five years.

"We want every Canadian to have an opportunity to experience the fulfillment, empowerment and freedom that flow from higher learning," Mr. Goodale said.

Mr. Goodale said that students coming out of Canada's universities must be better prepared to participate in the economy, calling for greater links between post-secondary institutions and the private sector.

"We need more scientists with business savvy, and more business people who understand science," he said.

"To improve the flow of knowledge and expertise between universities and companies, we will expand the number of industry research internships for science and engineering students."

The Liberals promised to spend an extra $1.3-billion to facilitate the arrival of immigrants in Canadian society, through improved settlement and integration services, over five years.

"To help ease some of the demographic pressures coming just around the corner, it is clear that we will need to increase the number of skilled immigrants we welcome to our shores," Mr. Goodale said.

In addition, Mr. Goodale said the federal government should spend an extra $3.5-billion in the next five years to provide workplace-based training.

The Martin government said it would spend $100-million to link up remote communities to Canada's high-speed internet network.

Mr. Goodale said there will also be new spending related to the upcoming meeting of first ministers with Canada's aboriginal leaders, scheduled for Nov. 24.

"It will focus on big issues related to health, housing, economic development and perhaps most crucial of all, education. The government of Canada will be ready to invest in these priorities," he said.

Overall, the Liberals are promising $49.8-billion in new measures between now and 2010. After $30.3-billion in tax cuts are excluded from the calculation that leaves a total of $19.5-billion for actual new spending.

The federal government is projecting that total spending will surpass the $200-billion mark in 2010, which is 26 years after overall spending hit the $100-billion mark in 1984.

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