Federal budget documents contain a dizzying number of promises, projections and assumptions, generally stitched together with a lot of grand statements about job creation and a bright future for our kids.
But how should one properly read the budget to get an unvarnished look at the state of the country’s finances? Which tables and charts in the document can give us a better sense of where money is being allocated and the government’s underlying priorities? What sorts of tricks do budget writers use to make the economic outlook seem rosier than it actually might be? Three experts well versed in budgetspeak shared their tips for looking at the document with a critical eye.
Stephen Tapp has been a research director at the Institute for Research on Public Policy since 2013. Before joining the Institute, he was a senior economist and adviser on economic, fiscal and tax issues for Canada’s first Parliamentary Budget Officer. He worked as an economist in the research departments of the Bank of Canada and Finance Canada; as a research fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute; and as an economics instructor at Queen’s University.
Cam Vidler is a senior economic policy adviser at the Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition (Rona Ambrose). Previously he led research and advocacy on international affairs at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. He has held positions with the Canada-India Business Council, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the Fraser Institute. He is a member of the Bretton Woods Committee in Washington, DC.
Armine Yalnizyan is one of Canada’s leading progressive economists. She joined the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in 2008 to advance its work on income inequality. She has a bilingual degree in economics from Glendon College, York University (including study of economics at Université de Bordeaux, France) and a masters of industrial relations from the University of Toronto. She is the recipient of the inaugural Atkinson Foundation Fellowship for Economic Justice.
Jennifer Ditchburn is the editor-in-chief of Policy Options, the IRPP’s online policy forum. An award-winning parliamentary correspondent, Jennifer start working at the Canadian Press in Montreal as a reporter-editor during the lead-up to the 1995 referendum. She then workedin the agency’s Toronto and Edmonton bureaus, before landing in the nation’s capital in 1997. From 2001 to 2006 she was a national reporter with CBC Television on Parliament Hill, and in 2006 she returned to the Canadian Press. She is a three-time winner of the National Newspaper Award: twice in the politics category, and once in the breaking news category, with colleagues from the Ottawa bureau of the Canadian Press.