He said: Honourable senators, this report reflects the work that was done by our Finance Committee on Monday — five and a half to six hours — and then further work this morning. It’s important for you to know because I will point out to you that in the House of Commons, with respect to the spending of almost $5 billion, they started at 7:10 last night and finished everything — adopting the report, first and second readings of Bill C-2 — in 20 minutes. We are trying to complement — we’re not criticizing — the work that is done by the House of Commons with respect to this.
I’m extremely proud of the work that Senator Mockler and the other members of the Senate Committee on National Finance have done and continue to do to make national finance an important — some could say an extremely important — part of the work that we do here to complement the work that’s done in the House of Commons. Thank you all very much and I congratulate you in that regard.
In relation to the report itself, it has been tabled. You’ll have a chance to look at it. There were good and valid points that were brought up. In the spirit of compromise and understanding, we’ve elected unanimously to put all those points down, not in asking for this report to be amended but rather a separate letter to go to the responsible ministers. Some of the points we made are really requesting further information and that, I anticipate, we will see in due course. I think that was a good compromise, having regard to the time and that this is just a new Parliament, the Forty-third Parliament, and we shouldn’t take steps that unnecessarily delay the passage of supply because obviously that’s a critical aspect for the government.
Honourable senators, the report is before you and I’m sure you’re anxiously awaiting word from the chairman of the committee. Thank you.
To my esteemed colleague, Senator Day from New Brunswick, thank you for covering for me.
On December 5, the Honourable Senator Grant Mitchell, Acting Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate, presented a motion in the chamber authorizing our committee to examine and report upon the expenditures set out in the Supplementary Estimates (A) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020.
In order to complete this mandate, the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance met on Monday and questioned government and non-governmental witnesses. Honourable senators, a total of seven departments, along with the Treasury Board, were available and presented to us an overview of the major items included in Supplementary Estimates (A).
Honourable senators, with the support of our new clerk Maxime Fortin and her team, the analysts Alex Smith and Shaowei Pu, the National Finance Committee was able to prepare the present report to the chamber for the supplementary estimates 2019-20 and present it in the chamber, as we are considering it presently. I want to thank them for their professionalism and also thank the senators for their hard work and dedication for a job well done.
Mr. Speaker, I would also note that the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance was privileged to welcome a new senator, Tony Loffreda, who participated in the committee’s meetings. The senator was thrown in at the deep end, as they say, but now he knows about the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance’s main responsibilities.
Senator Loffreda, I hope you will also have a chance to submit your name when the new committee is reorganized in 2020.
I would be remiss if I failed to recognize the contribution of one of New Brunswick’s own. As committee chair, I would like to take a moment to thank Senator Joseph Day. He agreed to serve as deputy chair for all the committee’s work. Senator Day chaired the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance for several years.
I can share with you, regardless of where we come from coast to coast to coast, that he was, as chair — as we say in New Brunswick, and especially in Saint John — a real trailblazer.
Today the senator sat with our committee for the last time. I know he sees himself as a runner, but I can say that as of today, Senator Day will be hanging up his skates. I want to thank him for his leadership and his abundant advice, offered both to new senators and to anyone who asked him questions. You have been a true mentor to many senators, Senator Day. Thank you for your enormous contribution to the Senate. Thank you for your contributions towards making your city, Saint John, your province, New Brunswick, our region, the Maritimes, and our country, Canada, a better place to live, work, raise a family and reach out to the most vulnerable. As La Sagouine would say, I tip my hat to you, Senator Day. You have earned your stripes.
Honourable senators, now that we have fulfilled the mandate you set out for us last week, rest assured that the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance will always stand up for transparency, accountability and predictability. We will continue to ensure that our work is done in such a manner that all Canadians, no matter where they live, whether in big urban centres or rural areas, can understand and learn about the financial processes put in place by the government. People have a right to know and to learn more about their government’s budgetary spending.
In closing, honourable senators, I would like to take a moment to thank all those who work with us, often behind the scenes, and who assume their responsibilities to ensure that the work of the National Finance Committee proceeds smoothly.
I have no doubt in my mind, honourable senators, that Senator Marshall will comment on the process of the report before the chamber today, entitled Report on the Supplementary Estimates (A), 2019-20.
And last, but not least, to all the senators who participated at National Finance, thank you for a job well done.
Honourable senators, I want to make my annual speech on supply, and I want everybody to think about this. We’re going to go out of here, and you will hear people criticize this chamber — the chamber of sober second thought — and they will say, “Well, we’ve got the House of Commons.”
Let’s just see what we’ve got in the House of Commons with respect to the spending of $5 billion. We’ve got 20 minutes spent yesterday to approve this in the House of Commons — 20 minutes.
And what did the Senate do? The Senate yesterday spent six hours on this subject. Then, again early this morning, another hour was spent on this. That’s 7 hours, compared to 20 minutes in the House of Commons to spend $5 billion of taxpayer money. I think we needed to spend more than 7 hours but, boy, we sure as hell had to spend a lot more than 20 minutes.
So don’t forget that when you go home at the break and people criticize you, mention to them that their member of Parliament, no matter what party he or she is a member of, spent 20 minutes to spend $5 billion of their money. Twenty minutes. Shame on them and shame on any government that allows this to happen.