… a core term in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100


For governments in the Westminster tradition, Estimates publications explain how organizations plan to spend funds.

The Government of Canada (reference below) explains the process as follows:

“Governments collect funds through taxes and other levies in order to provide services to their citizens. In Canada, the federal government’s primary sources of revenue are income and sales taxes.

“Payments that go directly to individuals, to provincial and territorial governments, and to other organizations are called “transfers.” Transfers are the largest category of spending for the federal government. The largest transfers include elderly benefits, as well as transfers to provinces and territories to help fund health care services.

“Federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations also provide programs and services for Canadians. In order for federal government organizations to operate, Parliament must give these organizations authority to spend.

“While spending is often announced in a Federal Budget, spending authority is actually granted through legislation passed by Parliament. Approximately one-third of federal government spending is approved by Parliament on an annual basis. These expenditures are authorized through an appropriation act and are called “voted” expenditures. Expenditures authorized through other legislation are called “statutory”. Due to the need to table Main Estimates on or by March 1, emerging priorities and items announced in Budget 2016 will be included in future Estimates documents.

“Estimates publications explain how federal organizations plan to spend funds. The Main Estimates and Supplementary Estimates provide information on spending authority that Parliament will be asked to approve during the fiscal year. Individual departments and agencies also produce Reports on Plans and Priorities (RPPs) and Departmental Performance Reports (DPRs). The RPPs are typically tabled soon after the Main Estimates and show an organization’s priorities and planned results for the next three years. DPRs, tabled in the fall, are accounts of results achieved during the most recent fiscal year.

“Estimates documents are prepared on a near cash basis of accounting, which recognizes payments when goods or services are received. This allows Parliament to control the amounts spent during a fiscal year through the appropriation acts it passes. Forecasts in the Federal Budget and the Update of Economic and Fiscal Projections are prepared on a full accrual basis, which recognizes that the economic benefit of expenditures may last for more than a fiscal year.

“The Public Accounts of Canada include financial statements for the Government of Canada as well as details of expenses and revenues for completed fiscal years. Information in Volume I corresponds to the Federal Budget. Volume II provides information on the same near cash basis as the Estimates.”


The 2016-17 Reports on Plans and Priorities (RPPs) for all Government of Canada departments can be found at:

The 2015–16 Departmental Performance Reports (DPRs) for all Government of Canada departments can be found at:

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Machinery of Government (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


Government of Canada (2016), 2016–17 Estimates, at, accessed 24 November 2016.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 25 November 2016.