It is a pleasure to be here again. With me are my colleagues, Ms. Renée LaFontaine, chief financial officer, and Mr. Daryl Sprecher, senior director, expenditure management sector.
I will begin by giving you an overview of the 2017-18 Supplementary Estimates (B). I will then be pleased to answer your questions. The President of the Treasury Board will join us at about noon.
To begin, I will briefly describe the government's spending cycle. We will then look at how the Supplementary Estimates are structured, as well as the total amount of this budget, and the whole fiscal year.
We will also look at how these estimates reflect the priorities set out in the fiscal framework and in budget 2017. Before concluding, I will also briefly talk about planned changes to estimates for 2018-19. I have a presentation that has been made available to the committee, and that is the frame for these remarks.
As you'll see in that presentation, on slide 3, we depict the supply calendar for Parliament. The parliamentary calendar is organized according to three supply periods ending June 23, December 10, and March 26. Supplementary estimates are a normal part of the supply process, and these supplementary estimates (B) for the period ending December 10 present information to Parliament on the Government of Canada's spending requirements that were not sufficiently developed in time for inclusion in the main estimates that were tabled February 23.
On slide 4, we see an overview of the way in which the supplementary estimates document is organized. The first few pages of the tabled document summarize the authorities and the amounts submitted to Parliament for its approval. They give additional information on major items and on horizontal initiatives. As usual, the largest section of the tabled document details requirements by department and agency. Each organization displays its requirements by vote and initiative, and we have tagged these initiatives to the appropriate budget year as applicable. For instance, initiatives from budget 2017 are tagged as budget 2017.
The tabled document ends with the proposed schedules to the appropriation bill, which are based on amounts presented in these estimates. Additional details are also available on the online version of the document. We have added new detail in response to feedback from committees. For example, a graphical summary was provided for the first time in supplementary estimates (A). We have repeated that depiction of estimates.
When we appeared at this committee in March, Mr. McCauley asked if we could provide an Excel version of supplementary estimates. I am happy to report that, for these supplementary estimates (B), we have provided details by organization in Excel data tables on the Canada.ca website.
Finally, I would remind the committee that the TBS InfoBase is also available to provide you with more information on authorities and expenditures.
As we see on slide 5, these supplementary estimates provide information on $4.5 billion in voted budgetary appropriations for 71 organizations. The new funding supports many initiatives announced in budget 2017 as well as spending set out in prior budgets and confirmed in the fiscal framework.
These estimates also provide an update on forecasted statutory spending that has previously been approved by Parliament. The $395-million increase in statutory spending reflects adjustments for public debt charges, major transfers, and the cost of employee benefits associated with the initiatives funded in these estimates. It also includes a new statutory transfer payment for home care and mental health services, as announced in budget 2017.
Turning to slide 7, we see a summary of the major voted items, and more detail is, in fact, provided on page 5 of the tabled document. In these estimates, we've highlighted eight initiatives of $100 million or more. These eight initiatives total approximately $2.3 billion, which is slightly more than half of the voted amount in these supplementary estimates.
The largest item on the list relates to compensation adjustments for the public service following the ratification of a number of collective agreements. This funding will be allocated across government departments.
The next item, for National Defence, is an aggregation of the additions and subtractions, or the pluses and minuses, for 19 capital projects, including the Arctic and offshore patrol ship, and the tactical armoured patrol vehicle project. The third item is also from DND, and that reflects pay increases to Canadian Forces members.
The remaining five major items in the list cover a wide variety of programs and initiatives, such as humanitarian assistance, public service group insurance and benefit plans, a settlement payment to follow royal assent of the Cree nation governance legislation, fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft requirements, and a re-profile of funding for the new Champlain Bridge.
Turning to slide 8, we see a visual depiction or representation of the major spending themes in these supplementary estimates. As I mentioned, this is also available in the online version. As you can see from the slide, the largest item, $1.3 billion, relates to compensation and benefits across the public service, RCMP, and Canadian Forces. Government-wide compensation and benefits represent approximately 30% of the funding to be voted by Parliament in these estimates.
The second biggest item or theme is for National Defence capital projects, totalling $668 million, and this is related to four major projects: the aggregation of the re-profiles that I spoke of, as well as fixed-wing search and rescue aircrafts, and the light-armoured vehicle.
Other major themes include support for indigenous peoples at approximately $600 million, as well as innovation and federal bridges.
Slide 9 speaks to the progress that we have made in implementing budget 2017 initiatives. The committee will recall that budget 2017 was tabled in March, and that is after the main estimates, which were tabled on February 23. Accordingly, supplementary estimates (A), which were tabled May 11, presented the first opportunity to bring forward new measures announced in budget 2017 for parliamentary approval.
These supplementary estimates (B) before you today include 46 initiatives from budget 2017, totalling $1 billion, or roughly 22% of the supplementary estimates (B) requirements. With these supplementary estimates (B), we will have brought before Parliament approximately 76% of the spending measures in this year's budget. We would anticipate bringing forward additional funds related to budget 2017 as well as other government priorities in the final supplementary estimates of the fiscal year to be tabled in February.
Before concluding, I'll give an update on the estimates reform project. In June, a number of changes were made to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, including a change to Standing Order 81, which deals with supply. As a result of this change, interim estimates for 2018-19 will be tabled for the first time in February. These interim estimates will support the first appropriation bill of 2018-19, and then a full main estimates will be tabled on or before April 16, which is to say after the budget, and will therefore create the possibility of including budget items in the main estimates.
To bring the budget and estimates even closer together, we are working with our colleagues in Finance to include information in the budget about new programs on a cash basis, and this development will support the possibility of including budget 2018 planned spending in the main estimates document to be tabled on or before April 16. As a consequence of this, we would anticipate not having a requirement for a spring supplementary estimates if, in fact, we are able to bring budget measures into the main estimates.
Mr. Chair, that concludes my presentation.
As to the next steps, in December, the government will introduce the supply bill for the Supplementary Estimates. The President of the Treasury Board will then table the 2017-18 Supplementary Estimates (C) and the first Main Estimates for 2018-19 in February.
Should you have any questions about the Supplementary Estimates, Ms. LaFontaine, Mr. Sprecher, and I will be pleased to answer them.
As you know, we've presented some ideas to this committee in terms of ways in which we can simplify and make more coherent the estimates process, and we see this as a very positive development in terms of bringing greater clarity and coherence to what we're doing with it. The reality is that we have always, in the supply period ending March 26, presented both the final supplementaries for the year in which we're in, and the estimates requirements for the year ahead.
The confusion that has created is not in being able to sort out one fiscal year or another. The confusion has been that we've been presenting the future-year requirements in advance of the budget, and then we've had to catch up through the supply calendar with significant spending, billions and billions of dollars, in supplementary estimates.
For this year, in 2018-19 we will table supplementary estimates (C) that will conclude requirements of departments to deliver programs and services for this year, and the interim main estimates will simply be an extension of the existing authorities that have been approved by Parliament to this point. We'll flatline, if you will. If department X has $100 million, we will take a portion of that $100 million and make that the starting point for the requirements next year. This will have the additional benefit of eliminating some confusion about what we call sunsetting programs.
In the past, we've used...as an example, Marine Atlantic. The continuation of funding has been subject to a budget decision. With the budget coming after the main estimates, we've had no choice but to table a main estimates that does not assume the continuation of that funding. It has been perceived as a cut or a reduction, but in fact, it was not. It was a decision not yet taken that was confirmed by the budget.
By tabling our interim estimates in this way we will avoid any semblance of reductions. If there are to be reductions, they will clearly be articulated in the budget, and they will then be reflected in the main estimates that are tabled after the budget.
Thank you for acknowledging the work we've done on InfoBase and what a treasure trove of information it is. I would really recommend the site to the committee.
I'll approach this in two ways. First of all, in these supplementary estimates, we're seeing an increase in ACOA's appropriation of $40.5 million, and that's for two initiatives: the innovative communities fund and the business development program. Those total $23.9 million. The innovative communities fund is oriented towards the non-commercial, not-for-profit sector, more in rural communities, and the business development fund is for small and medium-sized enterprises. It provides interest-free, repayable loans. That's $23.9 million for those programs.
Then we have a reinvestment of receipts from repayable contributions. For instance, the business development program in the past advanced money, and that money is now being repaid, so we see a reinvestment of those receipts totalling $16.6 million as part of ACOA's appropriation.
That's the supplementary estimates (B).
In terms of being able to follow this money in InfoBase, we aggregate requirements and break them out by program, and we update this information consistent with supply exercises. We started the year with our main estimates numbers. When we tabled the supplementary estimates in May, we updated InfoBase to reflect that spending and we would have updated InfoBase two weeks ago to reflect supplementary estimates (B).
We take those amounts, those reference levels, for ACOA, which are approximately $350.4 million now, and we disaggregate them by the aggregate programs, and by that I mean we don't itemize—
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm delighted to be here, back at your committee, again.
I'm joined here by Joyce Murray, our parliamentary secretary; Yaprak Baltacioglu, secretary of the Treasury Board; Brian Pagan, assistant secretary of the expenditure management sector; and Renée LaFontaine, chief financial officer of Treasury Board Secretariat.
I'm here today to talk to you about the supplementary estimates. With these supplementary estimates, the government is seeking Parliament's approval of funding to address matters of importance to Canadians.
This funding is specifically to support infrastructure, to create more opportunities for aboriginal persons, and to provide home care and mental health services.
The funding set out in the Supplementary Estimates will also serve to follow through on the government's plan to grow and strengthen the middle class in Canada.
We're seeking parliamentary approval of $4.5 billion in additional spending for 71 organizations. As you know, supplementary estimates present information to Parliament on spending that was either not ready for inclusion in the main estimates or has been since refined to account for new developments in programs or services.
This monitoring ability is one of the most important roles we as parliamentarians serve for our fellow citizens. To do this well, parliamentarians must have access to accurate and timely information on government spending.
With that in mind, Mr. Chair, we want to make it easier for Parliament to hold government to account. We are always open to the views of parliamentarians about how to go about this. For example, when I came to the committee in March to talk about supplementary estimates (C), Mr. McCauley made two specific requests about the detail and format of the information that we provide. The first request was to break down funding for horizontal initiatives by department, and second, to provide certain information in an Excel format.
I'm happy to say that we've now delivered on both those requests and we're working on more significant changes. To that end, the House recently agreed to change the date by which the main estimates were tabled, from March 1 to April 16. The date that the estimates should be sent to the House by the relevant standing committee moves from May 31 to June 10. This will begin in the fiscal year 2018-19.
Having main estimates follow the budget makes a great deal of sense, on which I think there is broad agreement, and reflects practice elsewhere. In fact, having the main estimates before the budget—I think that I said it at this committee—was asinine and denied Parliament the opportunity to really scrutinize the main estimates in a properly sequenced and logical manner. Adjusting the dates will ensure that the estimates are more closely aligned with the budget. This will help members conduct more detailed reviews of the estimates and to follow the money. In fact, the PBO noted, in its report released earlier this week, that:
||Parliamentarians will note that the Government has decided to table these Supplementary Estimates several weeks earlier than usual, thus providing them with greater opportunity to scrutinize proposed spending.
Ultimately, the more information that parliamentarians and Canadians have, the more they will be able to hold the cabinet and government to account.
In closing, I would like to reiterate that I am committed to working with all parliamentarians to continue to strengthen the estimates process.
My officials and I would be delighted to have your questions now.
If I may, I have a quick extraneous comment before I go to our five-minutes rounds here. It was sparked by Mr. McCauley's comments on the impact of climate change. My frustration has always been...because you're talking about the frustrations within government.
A fire chief was in my office yesterday talking about the problems that occurred with the flooding of the Ottawa Valley. He pointed out to me that they ran out of 70,000 sandbags within a day. Of his own volition, he started contacting various provincial governments in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta to try to get other sandbags, because they had experienced their own flooding problems.
Lo and behold, he found out we can't do that because we have to go through requisition processes through each provincial government and back to the feds. One of the provincial bureaucrats gave him the number of a private manufacturer of sandbags. He made a phone call and the sandbags were on a plane within the hour.
If your government can do anything to speed up the process that avoids this type of thing, I think we'd all be better off. That's my comment, and I'll stick by it.
Mr. Blaikie, your time's been ceded to you by Mr. McCauley, I understand. You have five minutes.
On the whistle-blowers act, the reality is that under the previous government, it ignored, for several years, the legislative requirement to review the act, and it didn't do anything with it.
I appreciate the question. Our government is committed to ensuring that whistle-blowers in government have the protection they deserve. That's for good government.
We appreciated the committee's report. There are useful recommendations to improve the regime in our public sector. We're taking concrete steps, including improving guidance, increasing awareness and training, and enhancing public reporting. In fact, last evening I had dinner with some public sector labour leaders, and we discussed this. One of the things I discussed was whistle-blower protection. I told them that I want to sit down with the unions to explore what we can do to strengthen the regime. That's something the previous government also didn't do a lot, sit down with the unions.
We're engaging also the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. I want to sit down with him on this issue in the near future.
We're initiating meetings across government with heads of human resources to ensure that employees and managers are knowledgeable about their rights and responsibilities in terms of whistle-blower protection and that they have the proper training and tools. Our chief human resources officer is examining how to best enhance public reporting so that we're able to publish the data.
I want to tell you that this is an issue that is important to me. It's one I know the committee has worked hard on. I intend to sit down with the public sector unions to discuss further what we can achieve on this in terms of strengthening the protections.
You may not have won that vote, Mr. McCauley, but you got your wish. I appeared, and we had a chance to talk about this.