Federal spending on track, says budget officer

The parliamentary budget officer released a report Tuesday that shows the federal government's spending so far this year is on track with its Budget 2011 plan.
Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page released a report Tuesday on spending by the federal government in the first quarter of this fiscal year. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

The federal government's spending so far this year is going according to plan, a report released Monday by Parliament's budget officer shows.

Kevin Page issued a brief report, the Expenditure Monitor for the first quarter of the fiscal year (April, May and June) that indicates "the overall trend in federal expenditures is generally consistent with the plan outlined in Budget 2011."

In an interview with CBC News, Page said the early signs indicate that the government is exercising restraint.

"We are seeing a slow down in the rate of growth of spending, the stimulus is coming off, the rate of growth of spending is being constrained," he said.

Total expenditures in the first quarter were $60 billion, up one per cent from the first quarter of last year.

Total spending for this year is estimated to be $10 billion less than it was last year and as a result, departments are spending a greater share of the budgets approved by Parliament in the first quarter – 23.4 per cent compared to 22.2 per cent last year.

Page's office reported that operating expenses were primarily responsible for the overall increase in spending, they rose four per cent to $12 billion. He pointed to the spring election and census as one-time costs for this year that bumped up operating expenses when they are supposed to be frozen according to the 2010 budget.

In accordance with the budget's plan, capital expenditures were down in the first quarter to approximately $400 million and transfer payments were also down. The non-major transfer payments included in the report do not include OId Age Security and Canada Health Transfer payments. Page said the non-major transfer payments in the first quarter were down six per cent to $7 billion compared to last year and that it's mostly owing to the wind-down of the Economic Action Plan stimulus spending.

In the first three months of the fiscal year the government spent $2.4 billion on internal services, nearly a quarter of the $9.8 billion budget for communications, financial management, human resource management and information technology.

The report also highlights departments that had the largest percentage change in spending authority between this first quarter and last year's first quarter. Canada Border Service Agency was up 303 per cent for example, with no explanation given. Correctional Service of Canada was up 271 per cent because of "newly enacted legislation" and a "projected increase in offender population." Grants and contributions to Environment Canada were down 82 per cent from last year's first quarter and no explanation was provided.

The numbers in Page's report are drawn from the Integrated Monitoring Database, which lists budgeted spending and actual spending for each department and agency whose funding was approved by a vote in Parliament through the Main Estimates.

Page said that as the government moves to implement its plan to reach specific fiscal targets, he will continue to monitor the impact on Ottawa's budget. The government plans to cut government spending in order to erase the deficit by 2014 - 2015.