June 14, 1972 (28th Parliament, 4th Session)


Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

That is a simple request, Mr. Speaker, and merely needs the exercise of the will to achieve it.
My other point is this: We should take a really good, hard look at how we handle estimates. I agree with hon. members on the other side who suggested we have improved the parliamentary process with respect to legislation. I think the committee arrangements and report stage arrangements we have made are good. I also agree that committees do good investigative work, and are to be commended. I think those processes are good. But the process by which we handle estimates, to put it mildly, leaves a great deal to be desired.
Let us not deal with this matter by suggesting that the government is all right and that the opposition is all wrong, or vice versa, or that we should keep this system or go back to the old system, although the old system was better for its time. I think that, somehow, members of parliament must become involved in the whole process in relation to the estimates. We may even need to modify the sacred concept of government responsibility and make provision for members to become involved in the preparation of estimates. The blue book of estimates is a big one, Mr. Speaker. The President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Drury) has told us he has given us more information than we can possibly digest. Yet the book really does not tell us how departments of government build up their lists of expenditures and how the decisions are made that determine how the taxpayer's money is spent. Mr. Speaker, I am not defending the present system or the old system; I am trying not to be partisan; I am merely asking for a new study of the whole question of how we vote the money for which Parliament is responsible. Perhaps we shall need to examine estimates on a two-year basis, instead of a one-year basis. Possibly, we should go for an examination of the estimates of each department once every three or four

June 14, 1972
Information on Government Business years. Perhaps we shall have to tear up the whole system we now have with respect to estimates and come up with a brand new technique. I hope that somewhere, somehow, we can do this, and we should get at it very soon. I could continue, Mr. Speaker, but my hon. friend from Welling-ton-Grey-Dufferin-Waterloo (Mr. Howe) is seeking the floor, so I yield to him.

Full View