The main estimates provide a breakdown, by department and agency, of planned government spending for the coming fiscal year.
The main estimates are presented in three parts. Part I, the Government Expenditure Plan, gives an overview of the government’s projected total expenditures for the new fiscal year and contains a summary of the budgetary and statutory expenditures for all government ministries and agencies for the same period. It includes an introductory section, which explains the different kinds of votes and other elements making up the estimates as well as any changes to the content with respect to that found in previous fiscal years.
Part II directly supports the schedule of the related appropriation act by listing the financial requirements of departments for the upcoming fiscal year. Part I and Part II are published together in a single volume known historically as the “Blue Book”. The name refers to the blue cover of the printed document.
Statutory expenditures are identified in the main estimates for information purposes only. These are expenditures provided for on an ongoing basis by way of legislation other than the Appropriation Act and cannot be altered by the House during its consideration of the estimates.
Part III of the main estimates is called Departmental Expenditure Plans and is divided into two parts:
The Speaker tables the House of Commons’ Part III equivalent, including a Strategic Outlook, which sets out the House Administration’s objectives and commitments to Members, at the beginning of each Parliament, as well as an annual Report to Canadians, summarizing Members’ parliamentary activities over the year and reporting on the Administration’s results and commitments in support of Members and the institution.
Should the amounts voted under the main estimates prove insufficient, or should new funding or a reallocation of funds between votes or programs be required during a fiscal year, the government may ask Parliament to approve additional expenditures or reallocations set out in supplementary estimates. The government may introduce as many sets of reallocations or supplementary estimates in a year as it deems necessary, although the practice has been to limit such requests to two or three. Each supplementary estimates document is identified alphabetically: A, B, C, etc.
The supplementary estimates are tabled in the same form as Part II of the main estimates. However, instead of being expressed as summary votes (i.e., where a vote summarizes all the anticipated disbursements in a particular expenditure category), each supplementary estimate or vote relates to a specific program or financial transaction. The information included in the supplementary estimates becomes a schedule in the subsequent Appropriation Act authorizing the prescribed withdrawals from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.