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Supplementary Estimates (B) 2019-20

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Published on February 26, 2020 PDF

This note presents a detailed analysis of the Government’s second supplementary estimates for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which seeks Parliament’s approval of $3.8 billion to be spent before March 31, 2020.

Supplementary Estimates (B), tabled February 18, 2020 in the House of Commons, outline an additional $5.6 billion in budgetary authorities: $3.8 billion in spending which requires Parliament’s approval and $1.8 billion for which legislative permission already exists.

Including these supplementary estimates, the total proposed year-to-date budgetary authorities are $312 billion, which represents a $21.8 billion (7.5 per cent) increase over the 2018-19 estimates to date.

Major spending items in these estimates include:

  • $919 million to the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs for loan forgiveness and reimbursement for comprehensive land claims negotiations;
  • $487 million to the Department of National Defence for funding capital investments as part of the department’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE);
  • $180 million to the Department of Employment and Social Development to write-off unrecoverable debts for Canada Student Loans; and,
  • $950 million in statutory authorities to the Department of Natural Resources for the Green Municipal Fund.

These estimates will be the last under the temporary change to Standing Order 81, which took effect in 2018-19 and aimed to better align the estimates process with the Budget. As of the 2020-21 fiscal year, the original process will be reintroduced, meaning that the Main Estimates will be tabled prior to the Budget. This will also likely bring back the need for three Supplementary Estimates (in the spring, fall and winter).

As a result of these changes, all Budget items will be required to go through detailed Treasury Board (a Committee of Ministers chaired by the President of the Treasury Board) scrutiny prior to funding being sought from Parliament. At the same time, this may mean a longer delay between the announcement of new initiatives and their implementation, as the earliest opportunity to receive approval for the funds will be in the spring Supplementary Estimates (A).

PBO also notes that given that the 2018-19 Departmental Results Reports were not presented to Parliament prior to the tabling of the 2019-20 Supplementary Estimates, parliamentarians are required to consider (and approve) the proposed spending without knowing whether any of the organizations achieved their intended results for the previous year.