The federal government has tabled its final spending adjustments for the 2021-22 fiscal year, laying out an additional $17.1-billion in spending authority across 75 government departments or agencies. The government is seeking Parliament’s approval for $13.2-billion in new spending authority, while providing details on an additional $3.9-billion in new spending that it already has authority for through other legislation, according to the Treasury Board’s supplementary estimates 'C'. The government tabled these final estimates for 2021-22 on Feb. 19, less than two weeks before tabling the next fiscal year's main estimates. If Parliament approves these final adjustments for 2021-22, the government’s total proposed spending for the year would be $415-billion. That figure was $478.7-billion for the 2020-21 fiscal year. COVID-19 measures made up more than half of the new budgetary authorities listed, with the Department of Health and the Public Health Agency (PHAC) of Canada making a joint request for $4-billion for the procurement and distribution of rapid test kits. Employment and Social Development Canada is also requesting $2.4-billion for the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit. The money for the rapid tests requires parliamentary approval, but the money for the lockdown benefit has already been approved through other legislation. Treasury Board President Mona Fortier (Ottawa-Vanier, Ont.) and senior departmental officials appeared before the House Government Operations and Estimates Committee on March 1 to discuss the government’s requests for new spending authority, as well as the Treasury Board’s recent departmental results report. Conservative MP and Treasury Board critic Kelly McCauley (Edmonton West, Alta.) pushed Fortier for clarification about the proposed spending on rapid tests in light of recent warnings from the parliamentary budget officer. In a Feb. 28 report, the PBO said the $4-billion listed for rapid tests in the supplementary estimates duplicated funds also being sought through bills C-10 and C-8, which are currently before Parliament. Conservative MP Kelly McCauley, pictured, questioned the apparent duplication of spending requests for rapid test kits. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade Fortier, in her first appearance before the committee as president of the Treasury Board, responded that the government was looking to use whichever of the two funding routes would see the money flow faster. She said the government would leave the other $4-billion worth of spending authority to lapse. Treasury Board officials confirmed later in committee that the government intended to spend $4-billion on rapid tests, not $8-billion. PHAC is also proposing to spend an additional $1-billion on the procurement of COVID therapeutics and treatments, an additional $1-billion on a broad list of emergency COVID measures such as staffing and treatments, and an additional $687.2-million on procuring vaccines and personal protective equipment. Health Canada and PHAC were the two government organizations that made the largest adjustments to their earlier spending authorities, listing additional expenditures of $3.4-billion and $3.6-billion respectively. If all the additional spending is approved, Health Canada’s total budgetary expenditures for 2021-22 will be $9.2-billion, and PHAC’s total will be $16.8-billion. Non-COVID spending increases The final supplementary estimates for the 2021-22 fiscal year will require a final appropriations bill, which Fortier will introduce at some point in March 2022. Out of a total of 126 government departments and agencies with spending authority for the 2021-22 fiscal year, 75 submitted additional or adjusted spending requirements in this third round of updates. Seventy of these organizational spending requests require parliamentary approval through a final appropriations bill for the fiscal year. After Health Canada and PHAC, the departments with the next largest spending increases that are subject to parliamentary approval are Global Affairs Canada ($828.8-million), Indigenous Services Canada ($766.4-million), the Department of National Defence ($638.3-million), and Infrastructure Canada ($521.8-million). Global Affairs Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada have joint responsibility for $653.7-million to help developing countries transition towards “low-carbon, climate-resilient” economies. Bloc Québécois MP Julie Vignola (Beauport-Limoilou, Que.) said she understood the need to fund climate change projects, but asked Fortier how much of this money was going to fund “international climate finance mechanisms and financial institutions,” as listed in this section. Fortier committed to obtaining more information for the committee. Vignola also asked Fortier how much had been spent on French-language courses for public servants, and whether this spending was leading to “a concrete, tangible increase in the use of French.” The Treasury Board Secretariat itself plans to spend an additional $406-million for salary adjustments, severance pay, and related expenses generated by recently negotiated collective bargaining agreements. Fortier said that, with responsibility for almost 300,000 public servants, her department was the largest employer in Canada. Infrastructure Canada’s spending adjustments include an additional $349.3-million to fund approved, ongoing public-private partnership projects that the federal government is legally committed to support following the dissolution of PPP Canada Inc. This was the federal Crown corporation set up by the Harper government to manage the P3 Canada fund, and dissolved in 2018 by the Trudeau government. NDP MP Gord Johns (Courtenay-Alberni, B.C.) questioned Fortier and her officials about the proportion of external consultants being hired by the federal government, citing a January 2022 Globe and Mail analysis that said government spending on outsourced contracts had grown significantly under the Liberals. Conservative Treasury Board critic raises PBO concerns about timing Fortier’s appearance before the committee came a day after the Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux published a detailed analysis of the fiscal year's final supplementary estimates. The PBO report raised concerns that “the lack of timely, comprehensive results data makes scrutinizing proposed spending more difficult.” The office of Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux says a lack of timely data 'makes scrutinizing proposed spending more difficult.' The Hill Times photograph by Sam Garcia There is no legislated date by which departments have to table either their forward-looking departmental plans or their backward-looking department results reports, said the PBO report, adding that “the most recent DRRs (for the 2020-21 fiscal year) were published in February 2022–10 months after the close of the fiscal year (March 31). "This meant that Parliament was required to consider virtually all new government spending without the benefit of knowing what had been previously achieved,” the report said. McCauley followed up on the PBO's concerns in committee, asking why performance and spending reports, such as the DRRs, had not been released earlier to allow MPs and the public more time to study them. He accused the government of withholding accountability documents for political reasons and asked Treasury Board officials if a legislated September release date would be feasible. An official replied that setting such a date would affect the Auditor General’s Office, which is required to audit these documents before they can be released. The Treasury Board tables the main estimates at the beginning of each fiscal year, while the supplementary estimates come later and present information on additional spending needs that were either not ready when the main estimates were being written, or that changed with later developments. The main estimates for 2021-22 were tabled on Feb. 25, 2021, requesting parliamentary approval for $141.9-billion in budgetary expenditures and $180.7-million in non-budgetary expenditures, while also providing details on an additional $200.3-billion covered by other legislation, and $4.3-billion in loans, investments and advances. The government then updated these estimates with supplementary estimates tabled on May 27 and Nov. 26 last year, and finally, this year on Feb. 19. Fortier also tabled the main estimates for the 2022-2023 year on March 1. Next year’s estimates show a total of $397.6-billion in planned budgetary spending across 126 government departments or agencies, of which $190.3-billion requires parliamentary approval through an appropriations bill. firstname.lastname@example.org The Hill Times CORRECTION: This article was updated on March 3, 2022, to clarify the final estimates for 2021-22, not an appropriation bill, were tabled on Feb. 19.