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Federal snooping agency gets big budget increase, watchdogs face cuts

OTTAWA - The budget of Canada's electronic eavesdropping agency will almost double this year as it prepares to open swanky new Ottawa headquarters.

Estimates tabled in Parliament on Thursday show Communications Security Establishment Canada will receive $829 million in 2014-15, up from just under $444 million this year.

It includes a one-time increase of $300 million for a contract payment related to delivery of the spy agency's new facility, and over $100 million related to maintenance of the complex, built through a public-private partnership.

The headquarters includes a vast data storage unit the size of a football field, extensive new office space and a public meeting centre near the entrance to the campus.

In addition, just over $6 million will support CSEC's mandate of gathering foreign intelligence and protecting federal computer systems.

At the same time, the budgets of several federal watchdogs will be cut.

The auditor general loses more than $6 million and the chief electoral officer about $18 million.

The information and privacy commissioners are chopped by $8 million, largely due to the fact they got extra money last time to move their offices.

Many of the cuts flow from a government-wide spending reduction exercise that continues to affect allocations to departments and agencies.

At the same time, the government is making myriad plans to celebrate historical milestones — including the beginning of the First World War — leading up to the country's 150th birthday in 2017.

As a result, Canadian Heritage's budget rises $70 million and the National Battlefields Commission gets an extra $5 million.

The Senate ethics officer also gets more money, with $300,000 set aside for possible inquiries regarding compliance with the Conflict of Interest Code for members of the embattled upper chamber.

There were other losers.

The Canada Revenue Agency's budget shrinks almost 10 per cent by about $415 million.

The RCMP loses $132 million, or almost five per cent from the previous year.

As expected, the CBC's budget drops by almost $27 million, while the Canada School of Public Service — which does everything from language training to teaching bureaucrats how to run a meeting — loses $13 million.

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