Supplementary Estimates (A) 2020-21

The Supplementary Estimates (A) 2020-21 is the first of three planned Supplementary Estimates in 2020-21 and supports the third appropriation bill for the current fiscal year.

The Supplementary Estimates are part of Parliament’s regular process to approve new spending.  They “present information on additional spending requirements which were either not sufficiently developed in time for inclusion in the Main Estimates, or have subsequently been refined to account for developments in particular programs and services.” [1]

The way in which these Supplementary Estimates will be evaluated differs from the standard process. Normally, standing committees of the House of Commons will gather to discuss specific portions of the Estimates. These committees may approve, reduce, or deny a provision in the Estimates, but may not increase it. [2]  They may also summon witnesses to explain specific aspect of the estimates.

In contrast, these Supplementary Estimates will only be taken up by the Committee of the Whole for a maximum of four hours.  At the conclusion of the four hours, “all questions necessary to dispose of the business of supply shall be put forthwith and successively, without debate or amendment, and, if a recorded division is requested, it shall not be deferred.” [3]

Parliament will vote on billions of dollars worth of authorities, which includes amounts for both COVID-19 and non COVID-19 measures. It will be difficult for parliamentarians to perform their critical role of properly scrutinising proposed Government spending in a four-hour window. They will have limited capacity to question witnesses, including public servants with expert knowledge of the programs funded through these Estimates.  Furthermore, they will not have the capacity to perform the critical role of amending, reducing or denying any provision in these Estimates, despite the fact that Opposition parties hold a majority of the seats in the House of Commons.  Parliamentarians are therefore left with only two options: approve Supplementary Estimates (A) as tabled, or reject them.


Parliament provides money to departments and agencies in two ways. Some of the money must be approved (or “Voted”) by Parliament each year, while other funds for regular expected expenses can be provided on an ongoing basis through legislation (or “Statutory”), such as Old Age Security benefits paid under the authority of the Old Age Security Act[4]

Supplementary Estimates (A) 2020-21 outlines an additional $87.0 billion in budgetary authorities, of which voted and statutory authorities represent $6.0 billion and $80.9 billion, respectively (Table 1-1).

These estimates also include $200 million in non-budgetary authorities, which includes loans, investments and advances.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2020–21: Total authorities
Table 1-1

($ billions)

($ billions)










Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Supplementary Estimates (A), 2020-21.

In combination with the 2020-21 Main Estimates, the total proposed year-to-date budgetary authorities are $391.5 billion, which represents an $81.4 billion (26.2 per cent) increase over the 2019-20 estimates to date. This unprecedented increase in authorities stems primarily from the measures announced by the Government in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Of the $87.0 billion in budgetary authorities included in these Supplementary Estimates, $82.1 billion (94.4 per cent) is related to COVID-19 measures. $1.3 billion of the $6.0 billion in voted authorities is related to COVID-19 measures, while $80.8 billion of the $80.9 billion in statutory authorities is for COVID-19 measures.

Authorities for COVID-19 Measures

As described above, the vast majority of the budgetary authorities included in these Supplementary Estimates are for COVID-19 measures. The largest items, which have received statutory authority, include:

  • $60.0 billion to the Department of Employment and Social Development for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB);
  • $5.3 billion to the Department of Employment and Social Development for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB);
  • $3.0 billion to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA);
  • $2.5 billion to the Department of Employment and Social Development for additional supports for seniors;
  • $1.8 billion to Public Health Agency of Canada for the purchase of protective gear and medical equipment; and
  • $1.5 billion to the Department of Finance for payments to the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia to clean up orphan and inactive oil and gas wells.

In addition to these statutory authorities, the Government is also seeking Parliament’s approval for other COVID-19 related measures, including:

  • $405.2 million to the Department of Industry, Department of Western Economic Diversification, National Research Council of Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada for the National Medical Research Strategy; and,
  • $274.5 million to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Department of Industry, Department of Western Economic Diversification and National Research Council of Canada for emergency research and innovation response measures.

While these Supplementary Estimates include a significant amount of the spending announced by the Government in response to the global pandemic, it does not include all of the planned spending. The Estimates documents only provide details on authorities of appropriated organizations which make payments from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Thus, it does not provide parliamentarians with a complete picture of how much the Government will spend on COVID-19 response measures. Some of the measures not included are:

  • The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS);
  • The Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) and the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA); and,
  • Additional benefits delivered through the Employment Insurance Operating Account.

Given that not all COVID-19 measures are included in the Estimates, it can become challenging to track the source of authorities for all of the announced measures. Therefore, PBO has developed a monitoring framework to assist parliamentarians.  It enumerates the COVID-19 measures announced by the Government and indicates whether they are included in these Supplementary Estimates. [5]

PBO will continue to update this document with subsequent announcements made by the Government.  As well, future iterations will incorporate performance data the PBO is currently collecting from over two dozen federal departments and agencies.

Authorities for non-COVID-19 Measures

While the majority of total budgetary authorities relate to COVID-19 measures, $4.7 billion of the $6.0 billion in voted budgetary authorities are for items not related to the Government’s pandemic response. Some of the notable items include:

  • $585.8 million to the Department of National Defence for funding construction of two Protecteur-class ships, which are expected to be delivered in 2024-2026;
  • $481.2 million to the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs for funding for the Federal Indian Day Schools (McLean) Settlement Agreement;
  • $468.2 million to the Department of Indigenous Services for funding for Child and Family Services; and,
  • $395.8 million to the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat to address a funding shortfall in the Disability Insurance Plan for public servants due to price- and volume-driven cost increases.

PBO is available to offer briefings or answer questions on any items included in these Supplementary Estimates.

[2].      House of Commons Procedure and Practice. (2017). The Business of Supply.

[3].      Journals, No. 37. Monday, May 25, 2020.

[4].      Old Age Security Act.

[5].      The document is based on information provided in the most recent Department of Finance report, Canada's COVID-19 Emergency Response: Bi-Weekly Report on Parts 3, 8, and 18 of Bill C-13, Sixth Report, June 10, 2020.

Supplementary Data