She said, “Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are asking Parliament to give them a blank cheque worth $3 billion under the pretext of the immediate need for economic stimulus during the crisis.” Fair enough. I do think that the Liberals supported that vote ultimately, but it wasn't a blank cheque as far as the Liberals were concerned, because it was time limited and because it was responding to an urgent need. I think that's really the main point about vote 35, that it was time limited and it was urgent.
But I'd come back to the point that I was making, which is that, if people are going to do the job of accountability, I think—not wanting to prejudge what we're going to hear from the Auditor General—what we're going to hear is that it was an accountability fiasco, and I don't think that's news to anybody at the table, but I think that is going to be further impressed upon us, given the content of his report that I've had occasion to view so far.
I don't want that to be true of Parliament. I don't want to create an accountability crisis in Parliament where MPs aren't able to do the due diligence so that later, when it comes out that some of the $7 billion wasn't spent properly, nobody's even going to be able to say, “They didn't spend it according to the plan”, because there was no plan.
How do you hold the government and Parliament accountable for spending that it does if you authorize the expenditure without a plan? How much time do we spend studying departmental plans? How many times have you heard members at this table ask, whether they're asking government or even in our studies sometimes when we have people from the private sector here, “Okay, what is your plan? How does your plan work? How do you make sure that you're meeting your plan? How do you evaluate whether the goals of your strategic plan are in line with the activity that you're undertaking?” Those are the kinds of questions that we ask, but here we're being asked to approve all this money, and we don't even know if the government has a plan, let alone what it is. We haven't even heard from the various ministers who are going to get money under this vote. Some who we have heard from suggest that they don't have a plan. Maybe others do. We don't know.
I think it's incumbent upon a committee that's charged with studying the main estimates and the Treasury Board vote estimates, which are huge this year.... I mean, it is kind of interesting, for those who have a graphic mind, to see in the graph the spike in money that the Treasury Board is responsible for. It's misleading, because the Treasury Board in some way isn't really responsible for that money, I guess, but they're the ones asking for it. Then it's going to be other departments that develop proposals for it.
Essentially, what you have is what parliaments were developed to work against, which is the total prerogative of the crown. Essentially, you're saying, “Go ahead; raise the money you want”, and then the king or queen just decides what it is they're going to do with that money after the fact. That goes against what Parliaments were founded to do, which was to make sure that those people who were supplying funds to the crown had an idea of what it was being used for and offered their approval for that. I just don't see a way that happens in vote 40, where we can be said to have done that.
What's frustrating, I guess, is that we've heard under Treasury Board vote 40.... Some of the items have gone through Treasury Board, right? There's the 221 million dollars' worth of initiatives that has been allocated. Those have had Treasury Board approval. What I find baffling is that those wouldn't have appeared in the main departmental estimates, then. I don't understand why those have to be in Treasury Board vote 40.
They say it's so that the numbers match between the budget and the estimates, but clearly, there's a way that they could have published a table that said.... In fact, they kind of did. They published a table that said, “Here are all the budget initiatives. Here are the ones that are allocated. Here are the ones that aren't.” They could have done that and still had the items appear in the main departmental estimates. All it would have taken was a footnote for the table.