How much will election campaign promises cost? PBO says he'll find out
Beginning in late June, any political party represented in the House of Commons will be able to submit requests to PBO Yves Giroux for independent analysis of their campaign proposals.
Published Thursday, May 2, 2019 10:14AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 2, 2019 5:53PM EDT
OTTAWA -- The Parliamentary Budget Officer has launched a new service to provide analysis and cost estimates on political parties' election platform promises.
Beginning in late June, any political party represented in the House of Commons will be able to submit requests to PBO Yves Giroux for independent analysis of their campaign proposals. Giroux and his office will scrutinize the policy ideas in a similar way to how they currently evaluate government spending plans, and report publicly on their findings.
"It will provide parties with greater certainty and enhanced credibility with respect to the costing of their campaign commitments, but the main advantages will be for Canadians," Giroux told reporters on Parliament Hill Thursday.
"I believe that Canadians will have enhanced reassurance that there is a non-partisan and professional organization that provides cost estimates for political parties," he said.
The program is a first in Canada and is modelled after similar programs in the Netherlands and Australia. His office was granted the ability to conduct these costing studies through the 2017 budget implementation bill.
It is a service being offered for free, but in order to be able to take on scrutinizing various platform planks from multiple parties, Giroux said that he has increased staffing in his office with economists and accountants who are experts in fields that tend to be central to most election campaigns, like taxes and defence.
Giroux said that this service, should the parties make use of it, will allow Canadians to make more informed choices at the ballot box and increase trust in the political process by being more transparent about how various politicians plan to spend their money.
Though, it will be incumbent on the various parties to request that aspects of their plans be priced out, the PBO will not examine any promises without the party asking them to. The costing estimates will be available on the PBO's website over the summer, once requests begin coming in.
Already there are indications that most parties plan on taking the PBO up on this offer.
The Liberals and Green Party have both confirmed they will be asking for this external costing of their platforms to be conducted. CTVNews.ca has asked the NDP to confirm that they will be taking the PBO up on his offer to examine their spending plans.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May's office said that they are already liaising with the PBO on this, as the budget watchdog has assisted the party with evaluating platforms in the past.
"I am very pleased that they are officially offering the platform costing service to all political parties. In 2011, the PBO reviewed our election platform, however in 2015 the service was not provided. Having a non-partisan, expert body like the PBO examine the soundness of party platforms gives Canadians added assurance of the legitimacy of a party's proposals," May said in a statement to CTVNews.ca
In a statement, minister Pablo Rodriguez said the Liberals "welcome" the analysis and took aim at Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer for not committing to using the PBO to scrutinize his platform promises.
Rodriguez accused Scheer of "refusing to allow an independent check of the numbers so the Conservatives can hide massive cuts."
In response, Scheer's office said that the Tory platform will be fully costed by an independent third party, but they have yet to decide whether that will be the PBO.
A campaign source speaking on background told CTVNews.ca that the Conservative team has "significant" concerns about their platform proposals leaking if handed over to the independent, non-partisan officer of Parliament.