While we’re at, let’s just fix the whole system

The House debates the $3.1 billion in anti-terrorism funding

The House is currently debating the NDP’s motion on the $3.1 billion in anti-terrorism funding. Earl Dreeshen, the first Conservative to speak to the motion, objected on the grounds that the premise of the motion is wrong—that the money is not, as the NDP motion puts it, “missing.”

The Liberals are proposing an amendment that calls for wider reform to the estimates process.

“; and that in order to avoid losing funds in the future, the House request that the government take all actions necessary to transition to Program based appropriations according to the timeline provided to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.”

Liberal MP John McCallum explains.

“The Liberal Party agrees that it is essential for Parliament to track down the $3.1 billion lost by this Conservative government, but equally, we must fix the way Ottawa spends money to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. That is why we are proposing to amend today’s NDP motion so that it not only provides a chance to look backwards, but also a solution going forward.

Currently when Parliamentarians vote on appropriations they are forced to approve huge blocks of money, allowing the funds to be shuffled around behind closed doors. Unfortunately this system can result in funds going missing. If instead we voted to approve funding directly by program, money would be tied to those programs and thus be nearly impossible to lose track of.

Former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page called for this system because it puts spending decisions back in the hands of Parliament; and in fact, Minister Clement has already examined this proposal in response to a recommendation by the House of Commons Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. It is now simply a matter of having the will to implement it.

Canadians elected us to be effective managers of the public purse. We hope that all MPs will agree and support our amendment and the entire motion.”

Tony Clement is apparently reluctant to commit to that can kind of accounting, on account of the cost—$70 million—to transition to such a system.