Do you know how your federal government is spending your money?

The short answer is no

by Aaron Wherry

Tony Clement tabled the main estimates yesterday afternoon. Postmedia and iPolitics note some of the cuts that might be presaged by the estimates, depending on what is including in the federal budget, but this is a good moment to recall—see here, here, here, here, here and here—just how little is clear about how the government spends money.

The government operations committee’s report on reforming the system, including the discrepancy between the main estimates and the budget, is here.

Kevin Page’s opening statement to the committee is here.

One of the key principles underlying responsible parliamentary government is that the House of Commons holds the “power of the purse”. The House must be able to satisfy itself, as the confidence chamber, that all spending and taxation is consistent with legislation, Parliament’s intentions, and the principles of parliamentary control. When this is accomplished, Parliament is serving Canadians. In my view, this is rarely accomplished.

Scott Clark and Peter DeVries explained the system’s shortcomings in a long review posted in August 2011.

The reality is that Parliamentarians and Canadians in general are in the dark about what the Government is planning to spend this year. Even worse, the Government is making no effort to clear up the confusion and provide greater transparency and ultimately greater accountability.

There was as well the mystery around the spending cuts in the 2011 budget (and the related election campaign surprise, which launched our cataloguing of the quiet cuts).

And, of course, there is also Mr. Page’s quest for details of the government’s cuts (which is perhaps all the more reason to clarify Mr. Page’s mandate and his power to compel disclosure).




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Do you know how your federal government is spending your money?

  1. i think the media are falling down on the job,by not continuing to probe the harper goverment over its tranparency.while we attack EI,senators and the PBO,we let the harper goverment get away with whatever it wants to do to taxpayers.there are reporters and pundits like mike harris susan delecourt and martin lawrence who bring some comman sence to politics,non partisain(just the facts),and not looking for a job in the senate. how gulible are most reporters to lap up this crap that the harper goverment serves up everyday.i thought we lived in an intellegent country,but this harper goverment has the IQ of a green pea.

  2. “Do you know how your federal government is spending your money?”
    I’m not at all convinced anyone in government has a full picture of how they are spending taxpayers’ money – and they want it that way.

  3. I would argue that the PBO and Treasury Board functions should be under the direct control of the Auditor General. The current system of checks and balances relative to Budget accounting have become blurred. There is no doubt in my mind that the PBO and Treasury Board both are politicalized. The Opposition uses the PBO as a tool only to find holes, but that is the Auditor Generals function.
    Treasury Board is suppose to be a group of analysts that refine both revenues and expenditures, AFTER the Department of Finance collects and regurgitates appropriate information. The Department of Finance are the number crunchers, Treasury Board ought to be the analysts that establish the appropriateness of either revenue and expenditures on review of the ‘non-political’ Auditor General.
    There needs to be solid financial information provided to the HofC not BS that is now provided without any statement of worth for justification.

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