Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to take part in this debate tonight with my hon. colleague in the House. The issue being debated tonight is an important one. It is central to the operation of this institution of Parliament. One of the most fundamental missions of the House is to provide a forum in which the government can be held accountable for its actions, especially for how it spends public funds.
The people's right to control how public funds are collected and spent is one of the cornerstones of democratic government. In Canada, like other parliamentary democracies, this control is carried out on behalf of the people by their elected representatives, and that is us, the members of Parliament.
Over the years, Parliament has given itself the tools it needs to make sure that the government remains accountable to the people of this country, that the government lives up to its commitments to deliver results to Canadians, and achieves the best possible value for money with every decision, with every policy, with every program. The Auditor General has played an invaluable role in this regard.
When the Office of the Auditor General was created by legislation, coincidentally 125 years ago today, it was seen as a means to promote good and effective governance in this country by ensuring that public funds would be spent wisely and effectively. The fundamental mission has remained unchanged to this day. For 125 years, a dialogue has been ongoing among the Office of the Auditor General, the government and Parliament. This dialogue is partly responsible for Canada being recognized today as having one of the most modern and efficient public services in the world, if not one of the best systems of government in the world.
The issue raised tonight by the member for South Shore is whether, given this important role, the Office of the Auditor General is being supplied an adequate level of funding by Parliament. It must be said that funding for the Auditor General's office already has increased considerably in recent years. Like most other government departments and agencies, the Auditor General's budget was reduced in the 1990s, after hitting a high of $60 million in the 1993-94 fiscal year. As the public accounts records will show, the entire shortfall was made up fully by fiscal year 2000-01. Since then, the Auditor General's budget has climbed steadily from $60 million to nearly $72.5 million in 2002-03. This represents a 20% increase over three years.
In 2002-03 alone, the OAG was granted a $9.2 million increase by Treasury Board. This represents a 13% increase in one year alone. I am sure that most members of the House and certainly most ministers who sit around the cabinet table would characterize a 13% increase as very sympathetic.
There is a process in place for the Auditor General to request additional funds from Parliament and it is through the Treasury Board. If recent practice by the government is any indication, it would seem that the Treasury Board has responded quite actively and supportively to requests for additional funding from the Auditor General.