Newfoundland and Labrador
The spring sitting of the House is devoted largely to the budget and its related proceedings.
If the Main Supply Bill for the upcoming fiscal year has not been passed before April 1, the House must pass an Interim Supply Bill to enable Government to meet its financial commitments between the beginning of the new fiscal year and the passage of the Main Supply Bill. The Interim Supply Bill authorizes an advance of approximately one-quarter of the amount of funding contained in the previous year’s Estimates. This funding permits government to cover the needs of the public service from the end of the fiscal year until the end of June, or until the Main Supply Bill is passed.
Shortly after the opening of a new session of the House of Assembly, the Minister of Finance delivers the budget speech and presents estimates for the coming fiscal year. On budget day, the Minister of Finance, having given notice at a previous sitting, moves the following motion:
“That this House approves in general the budgetary policies of the Government.”
Once the motion is moved, the minister delivers the Budget Speech, and in doing so is the first speaker to this motion in what is referred to as the budget debate. While the budget debate continues for the next several weeks, the Minister of Finance is the only speaker to the motion on budget day. When the Budget Speech concludes, the Minister moves adjournment of the debate.
When the budget debate continues on a subsequent day, an Opposition speaker (often the Finance critic) has the floor. The Standing Orders allows the person responding to speak for twice the period of time used by the Minister of Finance in the Budget Speech, or three hours (whichever is greater). Unlike other jurisdictions, there is no time limit on the budget debate in Newfoundland and Labrador Legislature. The length of debate is limited only by the number of speakers who wish to participate, subject to the Standing Orders respecting speaking times.
Members have the opportunity to speak once to the main motion. If there is an amendment to the main motion, Members have a second opportunity to speak. If there is a sub-amendment, the Member has a third opportunity to speak.
When there are no further speakers to the motion and the budget debate concludes, the motion, as moved by the Minister of Finance, comes to a vote.
The budget debate is a separate and distinct proceeding from the proceedings of the Estimates and the Main Supply Bill. Approval of the budget motion expresses the general confidence of the House in the government’s financial plan for the fiscal year; it does not result in any specific measures.
Following the Budget Speech on budget day, the Minister of Finance refers the Estimates of expenditure for the coming fiscal year to a Committee of Supply. The Committee meets briefly on that day, then rises and reports having made progress and asks leave to sit again.
On the same day, or shortly thereafter, the Government House Leader refers the Estimates to three Standing Committees which meet during subsequent weeks (15 sitting days) period to review these proposed expenditures. At the end of the period, they report having approved (or otherwise) the Estimates referred to them. While Committees tend to sit for up to three hours per head of expenditure, they are free to hold multiple meetings on a given head within the 15 sitting days.
The following three heads of expenditure are traditionally debated in the Committee of the Whole, rather than in the Standing Committees: the Legislature, the Executive Council and the Consolidated Fund Services. When all the Committees have reported, the House debates their reports and concurs in (or otherwise) their decisions. The time limit on each of these Concurrence debates is three hours.
In total, 75 hours are allocated for these debates in Committee of Supply in the House; in the Standing Committees; on the Concurrence Motions in the House; and in the debate on the Interim Supply Bill. Once the three Estimates Committee Concurrence Motions, and the three heads reviewed in Committee of the Whole have been passed, the Main Supply Bill is introduced with a resolution.
The Department of Finance is responsible for producing the annual budgetary documents. This includes the development and publication of supportive documentation such as a Fall Update, pre-budget consultations, the Budget Speech, Budget Highlights, the Estimates, Salary Details, Economic Review and The Economy.