Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today.
Today, I would like to focus on the supplementary estimates (C) 2011-12 and the 2012-13 Main Estimates for the Government of Canada.
I will also say a few words about the estimates process.
Let me begin with supplementary estimates (C) 2011-12.
Obviously this is more evidence, Mr. Chair, that our government continues to put Canada's financial house in order. Indeed, in an uncertain global economy, we are sticking with our plan, our low-tax plan for jobs and growth, a plan that we believe has worked and has served Canadians well.
The supplementary estimates (C) 2011-12 are certainly aligned with our commitment to restrain the growth in government spending. They support the government's request for $1.2 billion in funding for 54 organizations through an appropriation act. This represents an increase of only 1.3% over the 2011-12 main estimates.
As members know, supplementary estimates are part of the regular parliamentary approval process to ensure that planned government initiatives receive the necessary funding to move forward and meet the needs of Canadians. These supplementary estimates (C) 2011-12 provide information to Parliament to approve spending plans that reflect elements of new programs set out by the government in Budget 2011 and in previous budgets. I'm sure we'll get a question or two on those.
Let me just speak briefly on 2012-13 main estimates.
Mr. Chair, in addition to the supplementary estimates (C) 2011-12, I would like to discuss the 2012-13 Main Estimates.
As I mentioned, the government's top priority continues to be economic growth and job creation.
Indeed our commitment to this goal is also reflected in the 2012-13 main estimates and the responsible spending plans they set out.
These main estimates provide details on $251.9 billion in planned budgetary expenditures for the fiscal year 2012-13, which is essentially the same as, in other words, about a 0.4% increase from last year's main estimates of $250.8 billion.
I can tell you, Mr. Chair, that these expenditures are in line with decisions from Budget 2011 and previous budgets. They demonstrate our ongoing approach to spending restraint by showing the government operating within its means.
An appropriation bill for 2012-13 interim supply will be voted on by Parliament this evening—I hope that is not a shock to you—and an appropriation bill for full supply will be introduced for a vote in June. As you probably are aware, interim supply grants departments the required authority to make expenditures from April 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year, until the end of June, providing parliamentarians time to deliberate and vote on full supply.
Mr. Chair, let me turn now to the estimates process itself.
As the committee is fully aware, after new initiatives are announced in the budget, departments prepare detailed implementation plans, which must be approved by Treasury Board before the initiatives can be included in the estimates.
The proximity of the tabling of the main estimates and the budget does not provide sufficient time for new budget initiatives to be included in the main estimates for March 1.
Another part of the estimates examination process is the departmental reports on plans and priorities. They support the parliamentary committees' reviews of the main estimates by providing additional information by program activities to parliamentarians before they vote on full supply.
This year, the reports on plans and priorities will be tabled a little later than usual. Departments and agencies were given additional time to prepare their reports, in recognition of the time and effort required to complete the strategic and operating reviews under the deficit reduction action plan. But as per the normal process, these RPPs will support the main estimates; that is to say, they are connected to whatever is found in the main estimates. That issue has been a matter of public commentary, and I wanted to explain why we are following that approach and why that is consistent and required, if one looks at the Standing Orders.
If you're looking for the anticipated savings, they will be found in the process that is Budget 2012 and the Budget Implementation Act that flows from Budget 2012.
The broader issue, of course, is the logistics of the estimates process. That's why I am pleased that this committee is undertaking a review of the estimates process.
This process is rooted in both legislation and parliamentary tradition. While there have been changes to the presentation of estimates over time, there have been only a few changes to their fundamental form and content, and these were largely as a result of recommendations from parliamentary committees.
In this respect, I'm sure members have received a copy of my letter to the chair of this committee. It sets out a number of questions for your consideration during the course of your study of the processes relating to budget timing and whatnot. One of these questions pertains specifically to the timing of the main estimates and the budget. I'm looking forward to the conclusion of your study and the recommendations on the subject the committee will make in its report.
Mr. Chair, thank you. I'll be more than happy to take your questions on supplementary estimates (C) and the main estimates, which are before you.