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Conservatives unveil belt-tightening federal budget with few changes

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APTN National News
-The Conservative government unveiled a carbon-copy federal budget Monday containing modest investments to First Nations policing, reserve infrastructure and for a highway in the Northwest Territories.

The budget was essentially a replay of the previous budget unveiled on March 22 which was rejected by the opposition parties and failed to see the light of day after the triggering of the last election which led to a Conservative majority government.

The two main additions in this incarnation of the budget was the $2.2 billion harmonized sales tax agreement with Quebec and the beginning of the phase out of the per-vote subsidy for political parties.

The undercurrent of the budget remains belt tightening, with the government projecting a return to a balanced budget by 2014-2015.

The government is projecting a deficit of $32 billion for 2011-2012. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the government planned to find about $4 billion in savings a year.

The main commitments on the Aboriginal affairs file in this latest version of the 2011 budget were also highlighted in the Speech from the Throne including completion of a highway in the Northwest Territories, investments in clean energy technology, expanding adult education and supporting an Indian Affairs initiative to help bands develop and enact laws governing their reserve lands.

The government is committing $150 million to finish the final leg of the Dempster Highway to link Inuvik, NT., with Tuktoyaktuk, NT., according to the 2011 budget.

The budget also set aside $8 million to continue investments in clean energy technology to power remote First Nation and northern communities that currently rely on non-renewable energy, like diesel powered generators, to provide electricity.

The government has committed to invest about $22 million over the next two years to upgrade fuel tanks for these power plants that supply electricity to “off-grid” First Nations communities.

The government will also put $30 million over the next two years into the First Nations Policing Program to continue funding on-reserve First Nations police forces.

The First Nations Land Management program, which helps First Nations communities develop and enact laws governing reserve land use, will also get about $20 million in reallocated funds, according to the 2011 budget.

Basic adult education is also getting about $9 million over two years.

Nunavut’s justice system will get about $4.2 million to hire new judges and prosecutors.

The budget also invests $68 million to clean up federal contaminated sites over the next two years, including the Giant and Faro mines in Northern Canada.

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