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Third Reading, Appropriation Bill No. 1, 2022-23

Thank you, Senator Housakos, for your comments.

Before I start my speech, I only have a few words to say about the interim estimates, but I want to pick up on a couple of points that you made. We spend a lot of time in the National Finance Committee — and I spend a lot of time — reading the government’s financial documents. Of course, most of them are hundreds of pages long, but even I find it challenging to try to make sense of what is happening. I must say that trying to match the estimates documents with the budget is an absolutely impossible process.

The other point I would like to make with regard to some of your comments is that the National Finance Committee spends a lot of time on the estimates documents and the supplementary estimates documents. It’s the appropriations bills we focus on, but if you look at last year’s public accounts, you’ll see that there was $166 billion approved by appropriations bills, but there was $308 billion approved by other legislation. We rarely look at that money. We’re focusing on one third of government spending, so that has always been a concern of mine.

I’ll talk about the specifics of the interim supply bill. Senator Gagné mentioned most of it already and Senator Housakos alluded to it, but sometimes you need to say something eight times before people pick up on what you’re saying. I’m going to give a very short speech with regard to the interim supply bill.

This is the first appropriation bill for the 2022-23 fiscal year. As I said previously, the year runs from April 1 to March 31, so the old year ends today. This is a big day. It’s the end of the fiscal year, and tomorrow is the new year. The Senate just approved the last appropriation bill for the old year, which was Bill C-15.

This is Bill C-16, and it will approve some funding for the new year. It’s called the “interim supply bill.” That will be tomorrow. Because the Main Estimates have yet to be approved by the House of Commons and the Senate, the government needs money to continue operating, so parliamentary approval is being sought for an advance of the funding that is requested in the Main Estimates. That will be achieved through Bill C-16, and the bill itself sets out in detail the sums of money that the government requires to operate until June 30, when we expect the Main Estimates will be approved.

If you look at the bill itself, you’ll see that funding is requested in the supply bill and is expressed in twelfths of the amounts that will be voted in the Main Estimates. There is a schedule there, but it starts off by saying that everybody gets three twelfths of their funding in interim supply, except for the following, and then there is a schedule that says certain departments and certain votes will get four twelfths, so many will get five twelfths and it goes up to 12 twelfths. On average, if you look at the total amount in the bill, you will see that the government is effectively requesting, on average, about five twelfths of the money being requested.

What is striking about this bill is that the $190 billion being requested in the Main Estimates is significantly more than the Main Estimates last year, because last year the Main Estimates requested $142 billion. This year, it’s $190 billion, so it’s an increase of about 33% or 34%.

The interim supply bill, as a result, has also increased, going from $59 billion to $75 billion. However, it’s still very early, so you can expect that these amounts will increase significantly.

We haven’t done our study of the bill yet, but we usually go through it to see whether anything stands out. There are a couple of things there. Four organizations are requesting significant increases in their funding. The Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario is requesting a significant increase, as are Employment and Social Development Canada and the Department for Women and Gender Equality, so I expect we will hear from them. The fourth is Indigenous Services Canada, which is already problematic for me because they testified at our committee for Supplementary Estimates (C), and their Departmental Results Reports need a lot of work. They have 79 performance indicators, and they indicated that 14 of them have been met, so 63 are not met or not available or to be achieved. That stands out as an issue.

Those are my comments on the interim supply bill. I look forward to looking at the Main Estimates because that’s where we’ll be studying all the details in the bill.

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