Interventions in Committee
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View Alupa Clarke Profile
No, the Magna Carta dates back to 1215. Our system goes back to 1867, even before that, because united Canada had parliaments. It's important to hold the government accountable not just for election promises, but also for budget appropriation votes, which represent tens of thousands of dollars in spending.
Remember that every political party has the potential to wind up in the opposition at some point or another. We know that well, and it will probably happen to you in three years' time, if not later—heaven only knows. You should not consider what we are telling you today strictly through the government lens, but also through the lens of every parliamentary participant.
There is a reason Australia brought in the reform. Its supplementary estimates are now released the same day as the budget. That prevents a waste of two very important months by all parliamentarians, including elected members of the government party who are not in cabinet. I would point out that they, too, have a mandate to protect ministerial responsibility and to hold the government accountable for its actions and decisions, particularly in budget matters, the focus of our discussion today.
By moving forward with such a major reform of our parliamentary system, which is rooted in the Westminster tradition, in other words, by allowing the supplementary estimates to be tabled on May 1, we would lose nearly two months that could have been spent conducting studies and holding ministers to account before our committees and the committee of the whole in the House of Commons, as well as during question period. With this reform, we would lose two months that could have been used to study and scrutinize the numbers, time that even ministers could have used to prepare their responses.
I was taken aback when the minister was here and told the committee that he wanted to push the date to May 1, because, in our context, it requires adjustments and a certain degree of flexibility over two or three years in order to eventually table the budget and estimates on the same day. I asked him what would be wrong with including a provision in the legislation stipulating that, in three years' time, the two documents would be tabled on the same day. He couldn't answer me. Even without such a provision, however, Australia managed, in its first year, to present both documents on the same day, without the need for adjustments or flexibility.
I'll stop there so as not to bore you, but I would like to carry on with this discussion.
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