Supplementary Estimates (A) 2019-20

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. [1]

The Supplementary Estimates (A) 2019-20 is the first of two planned Supplementary Estimates in 2019-20 and supports the third appropriation bill for the current fiscal year.

The Supplementary Estimates are considered part of the regular approval process in Parliament, as 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.” [2]

The process of evaluating these Supplementary Estimates (A) is slightly different from the usual 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. [3] However, as committees have not yet been established, these estimates will be considered by a Committee of the Whole. [4]

How Much Money Does the Government Want?

Supplementary Estimates (A) 2019-20 outlines an additional $4.94 billion in budgetary authorities (Table 1-1). Voted authorities, which require approval by Parliament, total $4.86 billion. Statutory authorities, for which the Government already has Parliament’s permission to spend, total $88.0 million.

These estimates do not outline any additional non-budgetary authorities, which includes loans, investments and advances.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2019–20: Total authorities
Table 1-1

($ millions)

($ millions)










Source: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Supplementary Estimates (A), 2019-20.

In combination with the 2019-20 Main Estimates, the total proposed year-to-date budgetary authorities are $305.7 billion, which represents a $15.5 billion (5.3 percent) increase over the 2018-19 estimates to date.  This growth is generally consistent with the planned spending increases outlined in Budget 2019.

What Are the Biggest Areas of Spending?

Overall, these Supplementary Estimates provide additional authorities for 39 departments and agencies. However, the top 5 organizations represent almost $2.7 billion of the $4.9 billion (56.3%) in voted budgetary authorities. These organizations, as well as some of their major items, are summarized below. [5]

  • $857.4 million to the Department of Veterans Affairs, of which:
    • $676.9 million is to fund programs and services which provide support to eligible Veterans and their families.
  • $565.5 million to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, of which:
    • $296.0 million is to help developing countries address the impact of climate change; and,
    • $175.6 million is to provide humanitarian assistance to respond to international crises.
  • $526.4 million to the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS), of which:
    • $466.7 million is to compensate organizations for new collective bargaining agreements.
  • $427.2 million to the Department of National Defence, of which:
    • $176.9 million is to purchase 360 armoured combat support vehicles.
  • $355.9 million to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, of which:
    • $131.9 million is to help advance reconciliation on Indigenous rights and fisheries issues.

These Supplementary Estimates can also be broken down by the way in which the money will be spent. Personnel, which includes items such as salaries and wages, overtime, severance and retroactive pay, accounts for approximately $1.3 billion (25.5%) of the $4.9 billion in total budgetary authorities.

Personnel expenses have increased in recent years, primarily due to the signing of these new collective agreements, as well as the expansion of the number of people in the federal public service. The total number of public servants reached an 18-year high in 2018-19, as shown in Figure 1-1, and is expected to continue to increase.  The Government has noted that personnel expenses are one of the largest areas of spending growth this year. [6]

Population of the Federal Public Service
Figure 1-1

Figure 1-1

Source: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Note: This data represents a snapshot of the pay system as of March 31 of each year.

PBO also notes the increased use of Treasury Board (TB) Central Votes to provide authorities to departments and agencies since the 2019-20 Main Estimates. TB Vote 5, which is for Government Contingencies, is used to “supplement other appropriations and to provide for miscellaneous, urgent or unforeseen expenditures not otherwise provided for…” [7]

Between the 2019-20 Main Estimates and Supplementary Estimates (A), Treasury Board allocated $202.0 million to departments and agencies from TB Vote 5. The increased use of these central votes may warrant additional discussion by parliamentarians.

Changing How Parliament Approves Money

During the last two years of the 42nd Parliament, the Government made temporary changes to Standing Order 81 to delay the tabling of the Main Estimates by several weeks. According to the Government, the purpose of this change in timing was to allow measures announced in the Budget to be included in the Main Estimates, provide more coherent information to parliamentarians, as well as remove the need for a spring Supplementary Estimates.

Given that these changes were only temporary, Standing Order 81 has since reverted to the previous version. [8] If no changes are made to the Standing Order, the Main Estimates will have to be tabled on or before March 1, 2020, and parliamentarians should therefore expect a return of the spring Supplementary Estimates.

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