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Backgrounder - The Estimates Process

The Estimates, along with the Minister of Finance's Budget and Economic and Fiscal Update, reflect the Government's annual budget planning and resource allocation priorities.

Each year, the Government prepares Estimates in support of its request to Parliament for authority to spend public funds. This request is formalized through the tabling of appropriation bills in Parliament. The Estimates, which are tabled in the House of Commons by the President of the Treasury Board, consist of three parts:

Part I - The Government Expense Plan provides an overview of federal spending and summarizes the relationship of the key elements of the Main Estimates to the current Expense Plan.

Part II - The Main Estimates directly support the Appropriation Act. The Main Estimates identify the spending authorities (Votes) and amounts to be included in subsequent appropriation bills. Parliament will be asked to approve these Votes to enable the government to proceed with its spending plans. Parts I and II of the Estimates are tabled concurrently on or before March 1.

Part III - Departmental Expenditure Plans, which are divided into two components:

Reports on Plans and Priorities (RPPs) are individual expenditure plans for each department and agency (excluding Crown corporations). These reports provide increased levels of detail on activities and contain information on strategic outcomes, initiatives and planned results, including links to related resource requirements over a three-year period. These documents are normally tabled in the spring.

Departmental Performance Reports (DPRs )are individual department and agency accounts of results achieved against planned performance expectations, as set out in respective RPPs. The Departmental Performance Reports cover the most recently completed fiscal year and are normally tabled in the fall.

Since the Main Estimates are prepared well in advance of the beginning of a fiscal year, they do not always include the total expenses that are provided in the most recent Budget. For example, the Main Estimates would not include expenditures for initiatives announced in the Budget that require separate legislation or further development to implement, or that were not known in advance due to budget secrecy, require separate legislation or further development to implement.

The Budget also provides for possible adjustments to those major statutory expenses driven by economic or demographic variables that could change during the course of the year such as interest costs on the debt and equalization payments to the provinces.

Supplementary Estimates permit these requirements to be met within the overall planned expense levels provided for in the Budget or the Economic and Fiscal Update but not reflected in the Main Estimates.

The Estimates, in combination with the subsequent reporting of financial results in the Public Accounts, as well as the results achieved in Departmental Performance Reports and Canada's Performance Report, help Parliament hold the government to account for the allocation and management of public funds.