Financial Procedures

Introduction

Each year, the government submits its spending plans and an annual economic policy statement (budget) to the House of Commons. Proposed tax changes are submitted as necessary. No tax may be imposed, nor money spent, without Parliament’s consent.

Furthermore, the Constitution Act, 1867, provides that any bill appropriating any part of the public revenue or imposing a tax or duty (money bill) must originate in the House of Commons.

Parliament can authorize spending requests only if they are accompanied by a royal recommendation, which is the instrument the Governor General uses, on behalf of the Crown, to indicate to Parliament his or her approval for a legislative measure that will draw on the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

The fiscal year of the Government of Canada runs from April 1 to March 31. The process of approving the government’s financial requirements begins before the start of the fiscal year. Verification of the government’s spending takes place after the fiscal year ends.

Business of Supply

The process by which the government submits its projected annual expenditures for parliamentary approval is called “supply”. The House of Commons authorizes both the amounts and objects or destination of all public expenditures.

The annual expenditure plans (called the “main estimates”) are submitted to the House on or before March 1. The House must approve or reject the main estimates no later than June 23.

Should there be a change in the government’s requirements as set out in the main estimates over the course of the year, Parliament will be asked to approve “supplementary” estimates.

Business of Ways and Means

The process by which the government sets out its economic policy (the budget) and obtains the necessary legislative authority to raise revenues through taxation is called “ways and means”.

Should the government require funds while waiting for, or in the absence of, income from taxes and other revenue sources, it will exercise its borrowing authority.

Public Accounts of Canada

The House of Commons verifies that federal money is spent in the amounts and for the purposes authorized by Parliament. This monitoring function (often described as “closing the loop”) is delegated largely to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, which examines and reports on the Public Accounts of Canada (the annual report of the government’s financial transactions), as well as the reports of the Auditor General of Canada.