Canada’s anti-terror fight could be hit by lack of finances

OTTAWA, March 11 (Reuters) – A lack of resources could threaten Canada’s efforts to combat terror attacks at a time when the government is talking up the threat of jihadist violence, say top current and former security officials.

The right-leaning Conservative government wants legislators to pass a bill that would for the first time allow the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) spy agency to interrupt suspects’ travel plans and communications.

Yet Ottawa has given little sign it will boost the agency’s budget at a time when the anti-terror fight is under strain.

Canadian police on Wednesday said a man on a watch list of people suspected of wanting to fight for militant groups abroad had left the country illegally.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson told legislators last week he had transferred 600 officers from organized crime, drug and financial integrity files to the counter-terrorism beat.

“I just don’t think it’s sustainable to maintain our programs in other areas (from which) we are drawing resources … to address this threat,” he said.

Initial spending estimates released this month showed the government, determined to balance the budget in the run-up to an October election, planned to slightly trim the RCMP’s budget and give CSIS a little more money in 2015/16.

By contrast, Australia said last August it would add $632 million ($479 million) in counter-terrorism funding for four years.