John McCallum lays out four ideas for fixing the way Parliament reviews and approves the government’s expenditures.
To anyone who spends a good deal of time studying the government’s supply documents it has become painfully clear that this system has not kept pace with the size and scope of our government, nor the increased demand from the public for accountability and transparency. If Parliamentarians are to overcome this then we will have to work together to design a new method for scrutinizing the government’s expenditure plan. Modernizing Parliament’s expenditure review and approval is a two-tract process: first, the rules under which the government’s expenditure plan is approved must be changed in order to produce a more effective review. In addition, the very format of the government’s expenditure plan must be revamped. The estimates documents we currently rely on were designed in the 19th century to convey information about 19th century government. Modernization of these documents must account for both the expanded role of government and the new technology available to MPs, the media and to the public. We cannot risk the House of Commons abandoning its most basic role as the manager of the public purse.
This is a long-standing problem that even one government backbencher has lamented in recent months.