The Main Estimates are expressed as a series of "Votes", or resolutions, which summarize the estimated financial requirements for a federal department or agency in a particular expenditure category, such as operations, capital or grants. The Votes are expressed in dollar amounts, the total of which, once agreed to, should satisfy all the budgetary requirements in that category, with the exception of any expenditure provided for under other statutory authority.
Each budgetary item, or Vote, has two essential components: an amount of money and a destination (a description of what the money will be used for). Should the Government wish to change the approved amount or destination of a Vote, it must do so either by way of a "supplementary" Estimate or by way of new or amending legislation.
The Main Estimates outline spending for departments, agencies and programs and contain the proposed wording of the conditions governing spending that Parliament will be asked to approve. The information provided in the Estimates is reproduced as the schedule to the Appropriation Act.
Statutory items are expenditures authorized under separate legislation and, because already approved by the statute, they do not require further approval nor can they be altered by Parliament. They are identified in the Estimates with an "S" and are included for information purposes only. Over 60% of the funds listed in the Main Estimates are statutory.