Evidence of meeting #18 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was billion.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Michelle d'Auray  Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat
  • Bill Matthews  Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management, Treasury Board Secretariat
  • Christine Walker  Assistant Secretary and Chief Financial Officer, Corporate Services, Treasury Board Secretariat
  • Sally Thornton  Executive Director, Expenditure Operations and Estimates, Expenditure Management, Treasury Board Secretariat

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

The Minister of Finance has promised that this answer would be given in 2012, when we have calculated the results for all the programs that will have been put in place. This is important. A report will be published in 2012.

3:40 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Pat Martin

That's your time, Alexandre. Thank you.

For the Conservatives, Andrew Saxton for five minutes.

Andrew, go ahead.

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It's a pleasure to be back at government operations. Thank you very much, and I appreciate being here.

Thank you to our witnesses, as well, for coming here today.

Minister, a special thank you to you. I understand you have a very busy schedule and that you have to leave at 4:30 p.m. for other commitments, so I'll get right into my questions.

There's a lot of money in the supply bill when it gets voted in Parliament. Would you be able to remind the House how much money was in last year's supply bill, and what the difference is this year, if any?

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Yes, I think I do have that, Mr. Saxton.

In 2011-12, there was $250.8 billion in the main estimates. There was $2 billion in supplementary (A,) and $6.6 billion in supplementary (B), for a total of $259.4 billion. That's for 2011-12.

For last year's supply bill, I'm looking to my colleague, Mr. Matthews.

November 24th, 2011 / 3:40 p.m.

Bill Matthews Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management, Treasury Board Secretariat

Sure. Last year, 2010-11, the main estimates came in at $261.6. billion. There was a supplementary estimates (A) for $1.9 billion, and a supplementary estimates (B) for $3.1 billion, for a total of $266.6 billion.

For those of you who may recollect last year, there was a supplementary estimate (C) tabled, but it was never actually turned into an appropriation act, so we have not included it in the totals.

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Thank you very much.

Minister, Canadians elected our government to return to a balanced budget and get out of deficit. In Budget 2010, the government announced cost-containment measures on operational spending. Why, then, has operational spending increased by $2.8 billion this year?

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Well, I can certainly assure you that there have been some cost containment measures that have been put in place, including the restraint measures that were in place for this year's budget and last year's budget.

I can tell you that the operating budgets for federal organizations that are appropriated by Parliament have remained frozen at the levels established in 2010-11, until at least 2012-13.

There were some exceptions to that, including the clean energy programs, which I think we've already been talking about a little bit, and the economic action plan spending to complete some infrastructure projects. I think there was $708 million in that total.

Then we have legal obligations. They are statutory and include parental benefits, severance, out of court settlements, as well as Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development payments to Indian residential schools settlement agreement recipients.

Those are some exceptions, and they obviously indicate that there are certain envelopes that have cost containment and others, for valid reasons, that do not.

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Thank you.

I know the major spending initiative over the past few years of this government has been Canada's economic action plan. Is there any information in supplementary estimates (B) on EAP funding this year?

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

There is in fact. There are certainly provisions found in supplementary estimates (B) that deal with the extension of certain infrastructure programs in order to allow for the completion of projects that were already approved and under way. You might recall, after consulting with municipalities, we made that decision and felt it was important that there might be extenuating circumstances where these projects could not be completed on time. Rather than stop the projects in mid-track, we continued with this extension. That information, and the numbers associated with it, do appear in supplementary estimates (B). As an example, there is $708.6 million to complete provincial, territorial, and municipal infrastructure projects; and there is $163 million specifically for the needs of smaller communities. Regional development agencies have $35 million to complete their construction activities relating to recreational infrastructure, the rink program, that you may remember as MPs, and so forth. Those, in fact, do show up in the supplementary estimates.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Thank you.

Finally, the Auditor General made some recommendations as to how to display the estimates documents in a better fashion. What progress has been made in that regard?

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

I think this pertains to M. Boulerice's comments as well. Indeed, I think it's important that we continue to look for ways to present the information in a clear way, in the way in which these funds were intended. We certainly heard from the Auditor General about that point, that it was an important concept, and we do agree with that.

What we've been doing is chipping away at certain practices that have been around for decades in some cases, and are not helpful now in the 21st century in terms of transparency and so forth. We shall continue to work with departments and agencies. I've directed the secretary and her staff to do that. And in order to aid parliamentarians in their consideration of the estimates, we'll be making sure that we can link funding horizontal initiatives from one supplementary estimates to the next during the fiscal year. It will be easier to compare things in supplementary estimates (B) with the other estimates that might be found in supplementary estimates (A), for instance. I think that will be very helpful.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Pat Martin

You must have been talking to Mike about that, Minister, have you?

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

The Mike Wallace amendment.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

We appreciate all the input. Keep those cards and letters coming.

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!