POLITICS

Child-Porn Policing Underfunding 'An Accounting Issue,' Tory MP Says

02/20/2015 02:12 EST | Updated 04/22/2015 05:59 EDT

A Conservative MP says opposition questions about $10 million in unspent funding for the RCMP's fight against child sexual exploitation are simply a bid to play politics with "an accounting issue."

CBC News reported Thursday that, over a five-year period, Canada's national police force withheld some $10 million in funds earmarked for its National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre and related projects, linchpins of the government's anti-child-pornography agenda.

On Friday, opposition MPs challenged the Conservatives to explain why the RCMP isn't spending its full budget in the fight against child sexual exploitation.

Roxanne James, the parliamentary secretary to Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, called the opposition assertions "absolutely false."

"That member should not let the CBC do the research for them," James said in the House.

"Let me be clear. No funding for the protection of children from sexual predators has been cut. The RCMP did not spend the full budget allocated to the National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre due to human resources challenges stemming from the nature of work, and I think you can imagine the nature of work involved here, and high qualification standards."

James accused New Democrat MP Sadia Groguhé, who asked the question, of playing games with her questions.

"The member opposite is simply trying to play politics with an accounting issue," James said.

Nature of work makes it hard to hire

A spokeswoman for Public Safety Canada said in an email Thursday night that the RCMP has created new jobs and invested in technology to try to spend the money.

"This [spending gap] was in large part due to human resources challenges, including selecting appropriate candidates, high attrition due to the nature of the work and high qualification standards," Josee Sirois said.

The funding cuts, made partly as an RCMP contribution to the government's so-called deficit reduction action plan, have occurred even as the number of child-exploitation tips from the public increase exponentially.

The systematic underfunding is highlighted in a draft report prepared for Public Safety Canada, and obtained through the Access to Information Act.

The document, dated November last year, says the RCMP failed to spend its full $8-million annual budget to catch online child abusers throughout the five-year period ending in 2013.

"RCMP expenditures fell short of allocations by an average of about $2,000,000 (or about 26 per cent) per year," says the partly censored document.

"RCMP program and Finance staff indicated that the RCMP's systematic budget reset and re-allocation contributed to this situation, which resulted in reduced resources available."

The report says the Conservative government's 2011 deficit reduction action plan, or DRAP, an initiative to chop $4 billion from government spending by this year, was partly to blame for the reduced spending to fight child porn.

With files from Dean Beeby

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