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Question in Senate Chamber: Appropriation Bill No. 2, 2015-16, Bill C-66, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2016.


Appropriation Bill No. 2, 2015-16

Second Reading

Hon. Hon. Larry W. Smith moved second reading of Bill C-66, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2016.

He said: Honourable senators, the bill before you today, Appropriation Act No. 2, 2015-16, provides for the release of the remainder of supply for the 2015-16 Main Estimates that were tabled in the Senate on February 25, 2015.

Together, the budgetary and non-budgetary voted spending authorities in the 2015-16 Main Estimates total $88.3 billion, of which $25.8 billion was sought through Appropriation Act No. 1, 2015-16. The balance, as mentioned by our chair, Senator Day, of $62.5 billion is being sought through Appropriation Act No. 2, 2015-16.

[Translation]

The government submits estimates to Parliament in support of its request for authority to spend public funds. The estimates include information on both budgetary and non-budgetary spending authorities.

Parliament subsequently considers appropriation bills to authorize the spending.

[English]

The 2015-16 Main Estimates include $241.6 billion in budgetary expenditures that cover the cost of servicing the public debt; operating and capital expenditures; transfer payments to other levels of government, organizations or individuals; and payments to Crown corporations.

These Main Estimates support the government's request for Parliament's authority to spend $88.2 billion under program authorities that require Parliament's annual approval of their spending limits. The remaining $153.4 billion is for statutory items previously approved by Parliament, and the detailed forecasts are provided for information purposes only.

The 2015-16 Main Estimates also include non-budgetary items — $70 million in voted authorities and $930 million in statutory authorities. Non-budgetary expenditures, loans, investments and advances are outlays that represent changes in the composition of the financial assets of the Government of Canada.

Honourable senators, should you require any additional information, I'm sure that, between Senator Day and myself, we would be pleased to try to provide it.

Hon. Joseph A. Day: Thank you to the Honourable Senator Smith, deputy chair of the committee, for his comments with respect to Bill C-66. As indicated, you will be voting on a request for $62 billion, and this will carry the government through to the end of March of next year, the 2016 fiscal year. The $62 billion is as outlined in the schedule, honourable senators. I remind honourable senators that this is supply.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Cools?

Hon. Anne C. Cools: I would love to ask him a question.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Day, would you take a question?

Senator Day: Yes.

Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I wonder if Senator Day would have, off the top of his head — I know the appropriation act is replete with numerous sums — the appropriated sum to the Auditor General for the rest of this fiscal year?

Senator Day: By chance, I have the information on the Auditor General right here.

Senator Cools: That's good.

Senator Day: In case somebody might seek information on this. It's $78 million for the balance of this fiscal year for the Auditor General.

Senator Cools: Honourable senators, that's the balance because, right now, we are on the rest of the mains. This is June. Okay.

Would you have any insight as to whether or not the minister who is responsible for the Auditor General's expenditures, being the Minister of Finance, actually ever agreed to or approved the Auditor General's audit of the Senate?

Senator Day: No, I'm sorry; I don't have that information. It's part of the difficulty that this audit by the Auditor General and the way it's been presented has created.

As Chair of Finance, I have received a letter from the Auditor General saying that he has done a report, not the one on the Senate but on other ongoing business. He said, "We have done a report, and we would like to come, at your convenience, to talk about our report." Typically, we would have done that in the past, but we're into such a different relationship now with the Auditor General that it makes it very difficult to follow through in the typical way that we have in the past.

It will take a little time for healing as a result of what's transpired and the way it's been rolled out.

Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I would like to put another issue for your thought and consideration.

As you know, the National Finance Committee, which, because of its study of the estimates, used to be called the estimates committee. This committee has, of course, a natural interest in the Auditor General and the proper role of the Auditor General in the national finance.

I would like to ask whether or not the National Finance Committee, of which you are the chair, would consider, in its future studies of the Main Estimates — as you know very well, the study the Main Estimates, has a pretty wide mandate. Perhaps you could, as your National Finance Committee has done before, take a good look at the role of the Auditor General. I think the circumstances, as they have unfolded, reveal very clearly that we should be taking a very serious look at the Auditor General Act to see if it is consistent with modernity.

Senator Day: Thank you, honourable senator. I am very familiar with your inquiries. I have been following your statements in relation to the historical perspective of the Auditor General. You know that it's part of the standing mandate of Finance to deal with the Auditor General.

As to the point that you make, we may be moved in that direction just by virtue of what's happening here. Because of the change in relationship that this audit has imposed upon us, we will have to determine if the traditional way of proceeding and the traditional relationship can continue. We will have to look into that.

Senator Cools: I think it's fair to say that this house will be well served by such a study on the Main Estimates in your National Finance Committee. I speak to you as a former deputy chair who paid a lot of attention to these questions.