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The Government’s Main Estimates for 2019-20 outline $299.6 billion in total budgetary spending authorities. This represents an increase of approximately $23.7 billion (8.6 per cent) compared to the total budgetary authorities identified in the 2018-19 Main Estimates, and an increase of $9.4 billion (3.2 per cent) in comparison to the 2018-19 Estimates to date. Parliament is responsible for voting on $125.6 billion of this money.
Budgetary statutory authorities are projected to be $174.0 billion in 2019-20, which is an increase of $10.9 billion (6.7 per cent), compared to the estimated statutory spending in the 2018-19 Main Estimates.
Elderly Benefits, which is the largest major transfer to persons, are forecast to increase by $2.5 billion (4.7 per cent) from the 2018-19 Main Estimates. The Gas Tax Fund and the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) account for two of the most significant increases in major transfers to other levels of government. They are forecast to increase by $2.2 billion (100 per cent) and $1.8 billion (4.6 per cent), respectively.
The Government made significant changes to the Estimates process last year with the goal to better align the Estimates with the Budget. It delayed the tabling of the Main Estimates by several weeks to include Budget measures via a new Treasury Board managed central vote. However, this resulted in parliamentarians voting on items which had not gone through the TB submission process, and only being referred to one parliamentary committee.
To address concerns raised by parliamentarians last year, the 2019-20 Main Estimates eliminates the central vote, instead creating individual votes within departments and agencies for Budget 2019 measures. This is an improvement as it allows different parliamentary committees to examine these measures, as well as permit parliamentarians to vote on the specific measures, rather than one central vote.
While these are important improvements to the process, it does not address the issue of parliamentarians voting on items which have yet to be scrutinized or refined by the Treasury Board. Therefore, parliamentarians will still be asked to approve Budget 2019 measures without having complete information on these new measures.
It is ultimately up to parliamentarians to decide whether these procedural improvements outweigh the loss of some financial precision in order to help the Government expedite the implementation of Budget measures.