The Government’s Expenditure Plan and Main Estimates for 2020-21

The Government’s Main Estimates for 2020-21, tabled February 27, 2020 in the House of Commons, outline $304.6 billion in total budgetary spending authorities. Parliament is responsible for voting on $125.1 billion (41.1 per cent) of this money (that is, parliamentarians will be asked for their approval). The authority to spend the balance ($179.5 billion, 58.9 per cent) is already provided by existing legislation.

Consistent with previous Estimates, money transferred to other levels of government, individuals and other organizations account for most of the planned spending ($197.5 billion, 64.9 per cent).

The most notable areas of spending include:

  • Elderly benefits ($59.5 billion). Roughly one in every five dollars of federal spending is earmarked to provide a monthly payment to Canadian seniors. These benefits are fully indexed to inflation.
  • The Canada Health Transfer ($41.9 billion). The second largest component of federal spending is funding provided to the provinces and territories to help pay for health care. Overall growth in this transfer is indexed to GDP growth.
  • The Indigenous portfolio ($17.7 billion). Since 2015-16, the Government has increased investment in Indigenous services and initiatives by 66.1 per cent.

During the past two years, Parliament delayed the tabling of the Main Estimates by several weeks to allow budget measures to be included in the Government’s spending plan. As of the 2020-21 fiscal year, it has reintroduced the original process, meaning that these Main Estimates are required to be tabled before March 1, 2020.

As Budget 2020 has yet to be tabled, the 2020-21 Main Estimates do not include new budget measures. As such, the 2020-21 budgetary authorities will rise with anticipated funding requests in the Supplementary Estimates.

As a result of these changes, all budget items will be required to go through detailed Treasury Board (a Committee of Ministers chaired by the President of the Treasury Board) scrutiny prior to funding being sought from Parliament. At the same time, this may mean a longer delay between the announcement of new initiatives and their implementation, as the earliest opportunity to receive approval for the funds will be in the spring Supplementary Estimates (A).