Mr. Speaker, I stand today to support the special vote that is found in the main estimates known as vote 35.
As we have heard today, vote 35 is a $3 billion appropriation requested by the government for the Treasury Board to provide funding for initiatives set out in the economic action plan starting April 1. This is an extraordinary step taken to provide funding for departments that have projects that are ready to go right now. Many such initiatives are construction projects, which need to be started at the beginning of the season if Canadians are going to feel the positive effects in this given year.
There has been some confusion among the hon. members on the other side about the role of this $3 billion vote. I would like to shed some light on how this process would work.
Of course, there will always be those who prefer to muddy the waters so that Canadians and their members of Parliament are not clear about what the choices are, but I should think the hon. members opposite would appreciate my efforts in bringing clarity to this particular issue.
There are several challenges that need to be addressed with the economic action plan. These measures need to be dealt with by moneys that are put into place by this measure. One of them is the Budget Implementation Act, which provides funding for some of the economic action plan initiatives.
With this act receiving royal assent on March 12, the most important task at hand for hon. members is the passage of the main estimates. This is necessary to ensure that the measures provided for in the economic action plan, such as building roads and bridges, reducing taxes, supporting Canadians hardest hit by the economic downturn, and helping communities and businesses adjust and grow, will move forward now when they are needed the most.
Anyone who has ever invested money knows that the sooner one puts that money to work, the better it is. It is better to invest sooner, because the returns for that investment start flowing sooner and last longer.
When it comes to investing, time truly is of the essence. That is why we need vote 35 in the main estimates. It provides funding for a broad range of economic action plan measures that are not funded through the Budget Implementation Act but need access to money between the dates of April 1 and June 30. These include community recreational infrastructure projects, investments in first nations infrastructure, and investments in aboriginal skills and employment partnerships, just to name a few.
To ensure that departments can start funding these initiatives before this summer, we have requested the authority to make payments on these projects up to $3 billion.
This approach has been applauded by the International Monetary Fund. In a recent report, the IMF said that Canada's immediate focus should be on implementing the budget to mobilize spending.
This vote is necessary because the short time period between tabling the economic action plan on January 27 and the main estimates, which were brought forward on February 26, did not allow enough time for departments and agencies to seek funding for budget initiatives through the main estimates. Vote 35 allows the government to provide initial funding for ready-to-go initiatives until departments and agencies can receive funding through the normal parliamentary supply processes.
This really is bridge financing. It is simply a way of advancing the funding that would otherwise have to wait until supplementary estimates in June or even later.
However, make no mistake, we are accountable for this $3 billion. That is why we will table reports in Parliament on the status of the economic action plan initiatives, three more in this particular year: one in June, one in September, and one in December. The first report has already been tabled in the House.
In addition, the government will report on all allocations for the central vote as is the case for all central votes in subsequent supplementary estimate documents.
Finally, the Auditor General has indicated that she will be reviewing this process as well, and no one wants the Auditor General saying that money was not spent on what it was supposed to be spent.
This government has made accountability and transparency the cornerstones of its mandate and at this point we are not going to change our stripes. Our first piece of legislation was the Federal Accountability Act. Since tabling the economic action plan, we have cut red tape, taken extraordinary and unprecedented actions to ensure critical investments are not delayed--