POLITICS

Promised budget funds not a quick fix for security challenges, experts warn

04/22/2015 03:53 EDT | Updated 07/17/2015 08:59 EDT
OTTAWA - Hundreds of millions of dollars of promised new security spending in the federal budget will not be an instant solution to national law-enforcement challenges, academic analysts say.

The pre-election budget doles out almost $293 million over five years to police and intelligence agencies for additional resources to fight extremism.

"This government will stand up to keep Canadians safe," Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said Wednesday in the House of Commons.

A spokesman for the minister stressed that security commentators have praised the planned expenditures as a step in the right direction.

However, University of Ottawa intelligence expert Wesley Wark notes just $18 million of the money is earmarked for 2015-16, despite apparently pressing needs, particularly at the RCMP.

Almost a third of the five-year funding outlay — $92 million — is delayed until 2019-2020, Wark noted. "This is not a serious response to current needs."

Concerns about homegrown extremism have prompted the Mounties to move more than 600 officers to counter-terrorism duties from investigating organized crime, espionage and other serious offences.

That has prompted criticism the RCMP is being asked to do too much with too little.

The Mounties recognize they need to find "a longer-term solution" to respond to the breadth of their federal policing mandate, Mike Cabana, the RCMP's deputy commissioner for federal policing, told the Senate national security committee earlier this week.

The RCMP doesn't have the money to dramatically increase the number of new recruits, he added.

In any event, it will take time to develop new officers to cover the personnel shortfall, said Jez Littlewood, an assistant professor of international affairs at Carleton University.

Littlewood expects some of the new federal money will go toward enlisting Mounties. But "we'll probably have to live with this internal reallocation of resources by the likes of the RCMP and deal with the risks that entails" for many months, he added.

"It takes time to recruit people, train people, reallocate people," Littlewood said.

"And if we look at the post-9-11 change across western democracies, it was two or three years before you saw the real increases in personnel and training and activity following the budget spikes in late 2001, early 2002."

Federal security efforts have come under close scrutiny in the six months since two Canadian soldiers were killed by jihadi-inspired "lone-wolf" attackers just days apart.

Anti-terrorism legislation introduced in response to the attacks would 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.

The legislation would also give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service more power to thwart a suspect's travel plans, disrupt bank transactions and covertly interfere with radical websites.

It is hard to read the strategic thinking behind the government's longer-term budget projections, "but it may reflect a sense that CSIS will need more resources over time as it rolls out disruption operations, especially overseas," Wark said.

The budget also allocates $12.5 million in new money for the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the watchdog that keeps an eye on CSIS — almost doubling its resources.

But both Wark and Littlewood noted there was no new funding for the watchdog that monitors the Communications Security Establishment, Canada's electronic spy agency, which works closely with CSIS in tracking suspected terrorists.

Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter