Speaker says precedent-setting $7-billion budget vote can go ahead

By Samantha Wright Allen

If the $7-billion central vote passes with the main estimates on Thursday, former PBO Kevin Page says it represents ‘a new low’ for Parliament’s financial oversight system.

NDP MP Daniel Blaikie says he’s exhausted almost every procedure in the book to stop a controversial $7-billion budget vote, but after a Monday night House Speaker’s ruling, he’s not sure what else to do.

“We are getting to the point where we have done all that we can do. I really have tried to use every available tool in the toolkit to draw attention to this to say there’s something irregular and abnormal happening here in terms of the way the government is asking to approve spending,” said Mr. Blaikie (Elmwood-Transcona, Man.), his party’s Treasury Board critic, adding it’s been a frustrating experience having that work dismissed as partisan grievance.

“Frankly, it’s not the sexiest issue to zero in on as a Parliamentarian, but it’s something I felt I had a responsibility to do.”

In its effort to align the budget with the main estimates, the Liberal government has put all new budget measures—amounting to $7-billion—under the Treasury Board’s controversial central Vote 40, rather than broken down by relevant department. In the past, because the budget came out after the main estimates, money for new measures would be doled out in “supplementary estimates” after they’d gone through a Treasury Board review process.

The opposition says this approach sets a precedent that removes parliamentary scrutiny, and Mr. Blaikie argued the Speaker could rule it out of order.

But on Monday night, House Speaker Geoff Regan (Halifax West, N.S.) said there’s already “ample precedent for central funds.”

Barring any interventions in the House, Mr. Blaikie said the central vote “will inherently become a precedent for future governments.”

Former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page said by email he respectfully disagrees with Mr. Regan’s ruling.

full story at https://www.hilltimes.com/2018/06/13/speaker-says-precedent-setting-budget-vote-can-go-ahead/147640

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