Mr. Speaker, let me begin by citing Marleau and Montpetit, page 697:
The direct control of national finance has been referred to as the “great task of modern parliamentary government”.
At page 728 it states:
The Main Estimates provide a breakdown, by department and agency, of planned government spending for the coming fiscal year.
On February 24, the Journals of the House of Commons record that the President of the Treasury Board delivered to you, Mr. Speaker, a message from the Governor General, which you read to the House as follows:
Her Excellency the Governor General transmits to the House of Commons the Main Estimates of sums required for the public service of Canada in the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2005, and in accordance with section 54 of the Constitution Act, 1867, recommends these Estimates to the House of Commons.
...(President of the Treasury Board) laid upon the Table,—Document entitled “Main Estimates for the year 2004-2005”. —Sessional Paper No. 8520-373-02.
Pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2005, were deemed referred to the several standing committees of the House as follows:
And I need not read the list.
The transmission of the main estimates to the House of Commons is at the heart of our constitutional system. These are stated to be the government's spending plans for the coming year and they form the core of the government's request for spending authority.
The government stands behind these spending proposals, otherwise it would have not taken them to the Governor General and asked Her Excellency to recommend them to the House in accordance with the Constitution Act. At least, that is what the House of Commons is entitled to believe.
Now we find out that the entire exercise is a sham; that the government does not stand behind these estimates; that the government is misleading the House of Commons; that the government has once again failed in its duty to be transparent with the House.
I quote from a media release dated February 24:
The...President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, tabled today, in the House of Commons, the 2004-2005 Main Estimates.
One of the top priorities of the government is value for money,” said [the President of the Treasury Board]. “More than ever, the Government of Canada is committed to increasing accountability and providing Parliament with the information it needs to oversee the spending of tax dollars.
The main estimates support the government's annual request to Parliament for authority to spend public funds. They also provide information to Parliament about adjustments to projected statutory spending that has been previously authorized by Parliament. In this context, the 2004-2005 main estimates seek a total of $186.1 billion, including $2.8 billion in non-budgetary expenditures related to such things as loans and investments, and $183.3 billion in budgetary spending.
Today's tabling of parts I and II of the main estimates represents the expenditure plan set out in the November 2003 “Economic and Fiscal Update”. In addition, these main estimates reflect estimates for new and restructured organizations resulting from the machinery of government changes announced in December 2003. Over the coming month, Parliament will consider an appropriation bill to authorize interim spending for the 2004-2005 fiscal year based on these main estimates.
In the same news release, dated February 24, 2004, the government wrote:
Due to the extent of the machinery of government changes announced in December 2003, it is the intention of the Government to table a revised set of Main Estimates later during the 2004-2005 fiscal year. This will allow new and restructured organizations sufficient time to finalize resource discussions as well as to develop their plans and priorities in time for Parliament to consider appropriation bills to authorize final spending. At the same time, it will allow the Government to seek additional spending authority for expenditures that were not sufficiently known in time for the Main Estimates and which are normally sought from Parliament through Supplementary Estimates later during the fiscal year.
Essentially what the President of Treasury Board was saying was that what he had originally tendered to the House of Commons was invalid. The government never informed the House that the estimate book was invalid, that it was a dead parrot.
Instead, the government immediately referred the estimates to the committees of the House and wished the committees good luck on what only the government knew would be a mystery tour.
The committees will not be able to examine the estimates and get answers on public expenditures because there is not a minister of the crown or a single public official who can honestly stand behind these false estimates.
These are the Chrétien estimates; the estimates of a dead government, and that is not saying that this one is a very lively one either, by the way. All that the committees have before them is the dead hand of Jean Chrétien. Yet the House of Commons has been told by the Governor General that these are the spending plans of the Government of Canada and, under the doctrine of responsible government, the current administration has staked its life on the passage of these estimates.
What appears to be happening is that the government will use these fictitious estimates as the base amount on which it will seek interim supply and, having secured interim supply, it will then be able to use internal orders to reallocate funds for other purposes; and dare I suggest the gun registry?
Mr. Speaker, the business of supply is at the very core of responsible government. You, yourself, in 1997, devoted months of study to the role of the business of supply in the House of Commons. The House is entitled to take the estimate book at face value.
Let me refer the Chair to pages 1 to 8, the introduction to Part II. It states:
The purpose of these Estimates is to present to Parliament information in support of budgetary and non-budgetary spending authorities that will be sought through Appropriation bill.
Mr. Speaker, their time will come, let me assure you. The minister's media release says that is not true. At the time of the tabling of the estimates there were comments floating around the House that it was unusual for government to have tabled the estimates without prior notice. The reason is now clear. The government has no estimates.
The government has placed before the House of Commons a fraudulent document knowing that it is false. It did this to start the business of supply so that when the clock stops in June it will have full access to the people's money without telling Parliament or the public how it will spend it. The elected representatives of the people of Canada would be voting $183 billion without knowing what it was for and without being able to question or challenge those spending plans.
This is a gross contempt for the people of Canada, an arrogant attempt to undermine democracy and a complete denial of responsible government.
Once again we are seeing the Prime Minister trying to fudge financial questions. He has come before Parliament unprepared to govern. He has no agenda and he refuses--