Parliament asked to approve $13-billion spend on legal settlements, programs for Indigenous peoples

By Cristin Schmitz

Law360 Canada (May 30, 2023, 1:07 PM EDT) -- The federal Liberal government is seeking additional spending authority from Parliament this year for about $13 billion to implement programs and legal settlements with Indigenous peoples, as well as $469 million to provide health care to refugees and asylum claimants.

On May 30 Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) Yves Giroux posted his office’s detailed analysis of the federal government’s supplementary estimates A for fiscal 2023-24, which Treasury Board president Mona Fortier tabled in the House of Commons May 29.

The supplementary estimates, the first for Ottawa’s 2023-24 fiscal year ending March 31, 2024, propose a total of $20.5 billion in supplementary budgetary spending that must be voted on — a 10.3 per cent increase to the planned $198.2 billion in voted budgetary expenditures contained in the 2023-24 main estimates that were tabled last February. (The main estimates also requested authority to spend $234.8 billion in voted nonbudgetary (i.e. statutory) expenditures — for a total projected budgetary spending for 2023-24 of $433 billion.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux

Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux

(According to the Treasury Board, the supplementary estimates reflect “additional spending requirements which were either not sufficiently developed in time for inclusion in the Main Estimates or have subsequently been refined to account for developments in particular programs and services.”)

The federal government said the $20.5 billion in proposed voted supplementary budgetary spending across 26 federal organizations includes $2.6 billion to improve health-care agreements with the provinces and territories, and $997 million to increase Canada’s housing supply.

But the PBO’s analysis indicates that the biggest-ticket spending item — almost 60 per cent of the $20.5-billion total, i.e. about $13.1 billion — comprises $8.2 billion for the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) and $4.9 billion for Indigenous Services Canada (ISC).

“This brings the proposed authorities to date for the two organizations to $61.8 billion this fiscal year, which represents a 328 per cent increase over Indigenous-related budgetary expenditures in 2017-18,” the PBO said.

“Nearly all” of the proposed spending in the supplementary estimates A for CIRNAC and ISC relates to the negotiation and resolution of Indigenous claims, the PBO said.

This proposed supplementary spending includes:
  • $4.4 billion to implement settlement agreements, and for immediate reform measures for the First Nations Child and Family Services Program and Jordan’s Principle;
  • $4.1 billion for claims under the “Expedited Resolution Strategy for Agricultural Benefit”;
  • $2.5 billion for the Specific Claims settlement fund;
  • $959 million for out-of-court settlements;
  • $380 million for the Federal Indian Day Schools settlement (McLean);
  • $218 million for the Sixties Scoop settlement; and
  • $39 million for the Indian Residential Schools Day Scholars settlement (Gottfriedson).

“Funding for settlements is included in the estimates once there is a cash need for payments,” the PBO explained. “However, most of these costs would have already been reflected in the government’s financial statements at the time in which they are recognized as a contingent liability. Given the focus on identifying and resolving claims, the PBO has noted in previous reports that it is likely that a greater number and amount of contingent liabilities will be recognized on the government’s balance sheet going forward. As such, ongoing parliamentary spending requests can be anticipated.”

The supplementary estimates A also include proposed spending of $469 million by the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to “provide health-care support” to asylum claimants and refugees through the Interim Federal Health Program.

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