Trudeau's Privy Council Office budget the highest in a decade

The budget for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Privy Council Office is set to rise by 20 per cent this year, making it one of the largest budgets for the office in a decade, according to spending estimates tabled by the government.

Industry, the arts, veterans and Indigenous Canadians all slated to get more money

Spending for the Privy Council Office, which serves the Prime Minister's Office, is slated to rise 20 per cent in the coming year. (Vincent Kessler/Reuters)

The budget for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Privy Council Office is set to rise by 20 per cent this year, making it one of the largest budgets for the office in a decade.

According to spending estimates tabled in the House of Commons Thursday, the budget for the Privy Council Office will jump to $144.9 million for the coming fiscal year from $120.7 million.

However, that pales in comparison to the $163.9 million the PCO actually ended up getting in spending authorities in the past year.

Each of the government's three supplementary spending estimates over the course of the year added to the PCO's budget. The projects ranged from information technology modernization and electoral reform to security upgrades, and included $10.8 million more "to enhance the Privy Council Office's capacity to support the prime minister and cabinet ministers in delivering the government's agenda."

The Privy Council's budget is the highest since the 2006-07 fiscal year when former prime minister Stephen Harper first came to office and budgeted $146.7 million for the PCO. However, his government slashed the PCO's budget the following year to $127.3 million.

The Privy Council Office co-ordinates the actions of the government across departments and serves as the bureaucracy for the Prime Minister's Office.

The main estimates tabled by Treasury Board President Scott Brison detail how the government plans to spend $257.9 billion next year. However, the final amount a department receives in a year can be increased when Finance Minister Bill Morneau's annual budget is tabled or through supplementary spending estimates.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison tabled spending estimates Thursday calling for the government to spend $257.9 billion. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The main spending estimates tabled Tuesday call for $26.5 million in spending increases for the Privy Council. The new money will help create a youth secretariat "to increase youth engagement and to support the prime minister's role as minister of youth" as well as a results and delivery unit "to ensure the alignment and tracking of progress of the government's priorities and support the cabinet committee on agenda, results and communications."

Among the other projects, the increased money will also fund the PCO's role in the government's new appointments process and help PCO engage more with the provinces and territories.

Industry boost

However, among government departments, it is the Industry Department that is scheduled to get the biggest increase in its funding. The department's budget is to rise to $2.6 billion in the coming year, nearly double the $1.3 billion it received in the last main estimates and more than the $2.2 billion it ended up receiving over the course of the year.

Much of the new money is earmarked for programs announced in last year's budget such as the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund ($1 billion) or the Sustainable Development Technology Fund ($102.3 million).

The National Arts Centre, which is undergoing a renovation, is among the arts institutions scheduled to get more money in the coming year. (Diamond Schmitt Architects)

The Natural Resources Department, which thrived under the Conservative government, will see its spending drop 15.9 per cent to $1.3 billion from $1.6 billion in last year's estimates. For example, spending on the Statutory Atlantic Offshore Accords will drop by $334.7 million, and there will be a $27.9-million decrease for the ecoEnergy for biofuels incentive or a $23.9-million drop in money for defining the outer limits of Canada's continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean.

New priorities

In many ways, the main estimates tabled Tuesday reflect the priorities of Trudeau's government after a year in office.

Funding for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency is up 90 per cent from the amount it started with in the last main estimates. Funding for the Office of Infrastructure of Canada, which will oversee the government's ambitious infrastructure program, is rising 81.2 per cent to $7 billion.

National museums, a number of which have needed significant work in recent years, will be getting more money. The National Museum of Science and Technology, which has been closed after a mould problem was detected, is getting a 141 per cent increase in funding to $144.5 million. The National Arts Centre, which is also under renovation, is to get $5 million — 79 per cent higher than the $2.8 million it started out with last year.

Spending on the Canada Council for the Arts is set to rise 41 per cent to $257.3 million. Spending at the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development — now called Indigenous and Northern Affairs — is slated to rise 34 per cent to $10 billion, much of it to fulfil the promises made in the last budget for improvements in everything from water quality to education and housing.

Veterans funding increase

The government is also moving to make good on its promises to veterans with a 29.3 per cent increase in funding to $4.7 billion for Veterans Affairs Canada. The amount for disability awards and allowances is more than doubling — going to $1.5 billion from $659.9 million last year.

"VAC's budget fluctuates each year due to the demand-driven nature of its programs which are based on veterans' needs and entitlements," the government wrote.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is getting a 29.3 per cent increase in funding compared with the budget it started out with last year. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

"In other words, a veteran who is entitled to a benefit is paid that benefit, whether 10 veterans come forward or 10,000."

In some cases, changes in budgets are tied to particular events. For example, Statistics Canada will see its budget drop 37.3 per cent because the census has largely been completed.

Some organizations, like Via Rail and Marine Atlantic, have yet to hear exactly how much money they will be getting over the coming year. Their estimates are down 42.3 per cent and 45.4 per cent respectively because millions of dollars of their funding expires March 31 and has not yet been renewed.

Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca


Elizabeth Thompson

Senior Reporter

Award-winning reporter Elizabeth Thompson covers Parliament Hill. A veteran of the Montreal Gazette, Sun Media and iPolitics, she currently works with the CBC's Ottawa bureau, specializing in investigative reporting and data journalism. She can be reached at: elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca.


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