What's the answer to the missing $3.1 billion? - Macleans.ca

What’s the answer to the missing $3.1 billion?

Either way, it’s time to reform the estimates process


John Ivison says Tony Clement was shocked to learn that the $3.1 billion in anti-terrorism funding couldn’t be tracked and Ivison suggests part of the solution is reforming the estimates process. The Hill Times considers the same possibility.

The thought that estimates reform might be linked to the missing $3.1 billion occurred to me when the Auditor General released his report, so I asked Scott Clark and Peter DeVries if there was such a link to be made. In response, they suggested there was not.

The information on what happened to the $3.1 billion will not be resolved by any of the proposed changes to the Estimates process.  Since all monies must be approved by Treasury Board and then Parliament, the records are there as to what happened to the $3.1 billion.  However, to find out would be very time consuming given the number of years under review.  If it lapsed, the info should be there.  If it was reprofiled, TB would have to approve it.  If it was reallocated to other programs, TB would have to approve it.  

After John’s column yesterday, I double-checked with Scott and Peter. Was moving to a program-based estimates system a solution to problems such as $3.1 billion?

Not necessarily.  TBS and departments would still need to keep track of all of the transactions as to whether they lapsed, were reprofied or directed to another vote or program.  Details on programs would require more info.  There is no reason why the $3.1 b can’t be accounted for except for slopply paper work.  The same could happen under a program system.

Whatever the applicability of estimates reform to the question of the $3.1 billion, the estimates process needs to be reform. And $70 million seems a relatively small price to pay to ensue Parliament can better scrutinize government spending. As no less than the Finance Minister was recently moved to declare, “Canadians are entitled to know what their government is up to.” And $70 million is considerably less than the Harper government has already spent on “economic action plan” ads.


What’s the answer to the missing $3.1 billion?

  1. Milton Friedman – There are four ways to spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why you really watch out for what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well then, I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost.

    Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it costs, and I’m not concerned about what I get.

    And that’s government.

    • That’s a wonderful story. And entirely irrelevant to the article.

      • But it reveals so much about Friedman and Tony.

        I’m guessing most people are actually like myself; carefully selecting gifts which are often things which we’d consider indulgent to buy for ourselves.

  2. I can’t reconcile these statements from the Auditor General:

    Mr. Ferguson said there could be three reasons he couldn’t find the money: “The funding may have lapsed without being spent; it may have been spent on PSAT activities and reported as part of ongoing programs spending; [and] it may have been carried forward and spent on programs not related to the initiative.”

    “Mr. Ferguson told reporters later, “We didn’t find anything that gave us cause for concern that the money was used in any way that it should not have been.””

    Emphasis mine. Wasn’t there a problem with Tony Clement’s $50M pork project? The money had been allocated and approved for border security but spent on gazebos and roads. I recall this was considered to be misleading Parliament even though, as usual, there were no consequences.

    So if the $3.1B was spent on programs not related to the terrorism program it was assigned to, it seems that the money would have been used in a way it should not have been.

    • Maybe if he answered questions in both official languages …

    • He’s a Harper appointee. ‘Nuff said.

    • The money probably went to Montreal ad agencies while Chretien was in power.

  3. From what I can tell there are two answers eminating from government:

    1) That money isn’t missing, it just hasn’t been properly tracked. Probably said while involuntarily glancing towards Tony Clement.

    2) Some of those years were Liberal years. LALALA! I can’t hear you!

    • So then the Conservatives get a mulligan on this one?

      • The ChessMaster General would like a mulligan on this, yes. As well as on the whole helicopter fiasco. And the F-35 fiasco. Perhaps on the backbench bozo eruptions that he can’t control anymore.

        I’m guessing the ChessMaster General will want 18 mulligans when his term is up. Did you know that he’s a scratch golfer? Just ask him.

    • The money probably went to Montreal ad agencies while Chretien was still PM. He liked to do that sort of thing. Kind of explains why Liberal support in Quebec has been in perpetual decline ever since Chretien left office.