Jean-Denis Fréchette was appointed Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) on September 3, 2013.
Before being appointed, Mr. Fréchette was Senior Director of the Economics, Resources and International Affairs Division of the Library’s Parliamentary Information and Research Service. Mr. Fréchette has worked as an economist with the Library of Parliament since 1986.
During his career at the Library, Mr. Fréchette has led and supervised research and analytical activities to support the professional needs of individual parliamentarians and some 40 standing committees, in both Houses of Parliament.
Mr. Fréchette attended the Université de Montréal where he obtained a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree in economics.
The PBO is an officer of the Library of Parliament appointed to hold office during pleasure for a renewable term of not more than five years.
He is mandated to provide independent and objective analysis to Parliament on the state of the nation's finances, the government's estimates and trends in the Canadian economy; and upon request from a committee or parliamentarian, to estimate the financial cost of any proposal for matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction. The PBO’s legislative mandate and powers are set out in the Parliament of Canada Act.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is supported by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, which comprises about 17 staff members. The PBO is an Officer of the Library of Parliament, and his staff are employees of the Library; all are located within Library premises.
Mostafa Askari is the Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer, responsible for managing the workflow within the office. He often acts as the media spokesperson for the PBO and frequently appears before parliamentary committees to explain the PBO’s reports.
Mr. Askari came to the PBO from Health Canada where he was Director General, Applied Research and Analysis. He previously held a number of positions at the federal Department of Finance, including Senior Chief, Economic Analysis; Chief, International Policy Analysis; Chief, Economic Forecasting; and Chief, Model Development and Policy Analysis.
He also served as a senior advisor to Canada's Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund. He has worked at the Conference Board of Canada and taught economics at Trent University.
Mr. Askari has a doctorate in economics from Queen's University.
We provide independent, authoritative and non-partisan financial and economic analysis. In doing so, we support parliamentarians in carrying out their constitutional roles of scrutinizing the raising and spending of public monies and generally overseeing the government’s activities.
We strive to be responsive to the needs and concerns of parliamentarians who are always welcome to ask questions related to any aspect of our mandate.
All staff adhere to the Values and Ethics Code for the Library of Parliament. This code stipulates:
The Library of Parliament contributes to Canadian parliamentary democracy by serving Parliament and Canadians with integrity and respect, in accordance with our core values:
We ensure impartiality by providing objective information and services without regard to political affiliation.
We engender trust by providing reliable information and services in a manner responsive to the needs of our clients, while at all times promoting mutual respect and ethical conduct.
We achieve excellence in all aspects of our operations by delivering relevant and authoritative information as well as innovative and professional services.
The Values and Ethics Code provides further guidance on a broad range of standards of conduct expected of employees of the Library of Parliament.
For the period between 2013 and 2018, the PBO is pursuing five strategic priorities:
We report on our results through our annual administrative report. We also consult with clients and stakeholders to help us gauge the degree to which we are meeting their needs within the PBO’s mandate.
We seek to adhere to the highest standards and are committed to continuous improvement in all areas of its operations. We ensure the quality of our work in a variety of ways.
First, we publish full reports that include details on how we arrived at our findings. This means that our work is subject to public scrutiny.
Second, we hire highly qualified and dedicated staff. Most are economists or financial analysts with advanced degrees and years of experience in the public service.
Third, where advisable, we use external peer review of our work.
As per section 79.3(a) of the Parliament of Canada Act and other documents leading to the creation of the PBO, we are statutorily accountable to Parliament.
From an administrative perspective, we are accountable to the Library of Parliament for our expenditures. The Office operates in compliance with the Library’s contracting rules and proactively discloses on our website all contracts of more than $10,000 and all travel and hospitality expenses.
The position of the Parliamentary Budget Officer was created in 2006 as part of the Federal Accountability Act.
It was a response to criticisms surrounding the accuracy and credibility of the federal government’s fiscal projections and forecasting process. At the time, some economists and politicians were concerned that successive governments in the mid-to-late 1990s through the mid-2000s had shaped fiscal projections, overstating deficits and understating surpluses for political gain.
In September 2004, the Minister of Finance commissioned a review of the federal government’s fiscal forecasting accuracy. Among the review’s recommendations was the creation of “an agency within government with a mandate to focus on the medium- to long-term fiscal implications of structural economic and demographic factors”.
The Conservative Party of Canada’s 2006 election platform went beyond what was proposed in that report. It committed to creating “an independent Parliamentary Budget Authority to provide objective analysis directly to Parliament about the state of the nation’s finances and trends in the national economy” and “ensure truth in budgeting”.
The proposed authority, renamed the PBO, was included in the Federal Accountability Act with a mandate that exceeded that outlined in the Conservative Party of Canada’s 2006 election platform. The Act included the costing of proposals falling within Parliament’s jurisdiction when requested to do so by a parliamentarian or committee, likely reflecting concerns about cost overruns in major government programs in the 1990s and early 2000s. The Senate further extended the PBO’s mandate to include analysis of the estimates.
 Tim O’Neill, Review of Canadian Federal Fiscal Forecasting: Processes and Systems (Ottawa: Department of Finance, 2005) at 114.
 Conservative Party of Canada, Stand Up for Canada: Conservative Party of Canada Federal Election Platform (Ottawa: Conservative Party of Canada, 2006) at 11 [emphasis added].
 Kevin Page & Tolga R Yalkin, “Canada: Oversight with Qualified Independence” in George Kopits, ed, Restoring Public Debt Sustainability: The Role of Independent Fiscal Institutions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) at at 168–171.
The PBO’s mandate is to provide independent analysis to Parliament on the state of the nation's finances, the government's estimates and trends in the Canadian economy; and upon request from a committee or parliamentarian, to estimate the financial cost of any proposal for matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction.
By providing independent, authoritative and non-partisan financial and economic analysis, we support parliamentarians in carrying out their constitutional roles of scrutinizing the raising and spending of public monies.
Many countries have established similar offices to provide economic and fiscal analysis to the legislature. The International Monetary Fund refers to such organizations as fiscal councils. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – under which a network of PBOs has been established – refers to them as Parliamentary Budget Officials and Independent Fiscal Institutions.
We provide analysis to Parliament on the state of the nation’s finances, which depends on the expenditures, revenues, assets and liabilities of the federal government. We focus on producing analysis that will be of practical use to parliamentarians in decision-making. Consequently, we are usually looking into the future to assess how the state of the nation’s finances will be affected by government decisions and economic trends.
Under this branch of our mandate, we publish semi-annual assessments of the government’s current and projected fiscal position and testify at the House of Commons Finance Committee. To provide a perspective of the sustainability of government finances over the long term, we prepare an annual report that assesses the fiscal sustainability of the federal, provincial and territorial governments, as well as the public pension plans.
These reports focus on how the nation’s fiscal position will be affected by policy measures, economic developments and demographic trends in the medium and long term.
We also publish analyses of other ongoing and future government expenses. For example, we have published reports on Federal Transfers to Provinces and Territories and the Fiscal Sustainability of Canada’s National Defence Program.
We also provide analysis of certain issues that are likely to impact the nation’s finances. For example, upon request from a parliamentarian, we provided an assessment of the Fiscal Impacts of Lower Oil Prices.
Each year, the government submits its spending plans and an annual economic policy statement (called the Budget) to the House of Commons. The government’s annual expenditure plans (called the Main Estimates) are submitted to the House of Commons for approval on or before March 1. Parliament will be asked to approve additional estimates (called Supplementary Estimates A, B, and C) during the course of the fiscal year to approve spending above and beyond that in the Main Estimates.
We provide Parliament with analysis of the Budget and Main and Supplementary Estimates to help parliamentarians understand what they are approving. Our quarterly Expenditure Monitor analyzes government spending to help parliamentarians understand how those estimates are being implemented.
Our Integrated Monitoring Database allows parliamentarians to compare the budget approved in the estimates to spending reported during the year. In this way, parliamentarians can use the Integrated Monitoring Database to identify significant variations between planned and actual spending and, thus, track changes over time.
We analyze whether enough funding has been dedicated to achieve the goals of certain projects. For example, we estimated the cost of the government’s proposed procurement of Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships to show that Canada was unlikely to be able to obtain the planned number of ships with the funding it had allocated.
We also analyze general patterns in how the government allocates money. For example, we found that there was no significant relationship between a program’s performance and its funding through a review of Performance Budgeting.
The government can rarely achieve all its cuts through efficiencies. We provide analysis to help Parliament understand what cuts have been implemented and what impact those cuts are having. This information is primarily provided through quarterly reviews of federal program spending.
The government’s finances are linked to the performance of the Canadian economy. To help Parliament make informed financial decisions, we provide independent analysis of trends and developments in the Canadian economy. This information is provided primarily through our semi-annual economic and fiscal outlook and testimony at the House of Commons Finance Committee, as well as occasional updates. We also provide Parliament with information on trends in the labour market through our annual labour market assessment.
We also estimate the cost of any proposal within Parliament’s jurisdiction upon request from a parliamentarian. Many of our reports respond to requests for an estimate of the financial cost of a government proposal, such as to estimate the financial cost of extending Canada’s mission in Iraq.
Some costing questions are really directed toward estimating the magnitude of a liability. For example, we were asked to estimate the cost of remediating Canada’s contaminated sites, which represents a major liability for government. Other questions seek estimates of the magnitude of a missed opportunity or problem. For example, we have also been asked to estimate the revenue lost as a result of failing to address international tax evasion.
Our reports are always published simultaneously, in both official languages, on our website.
You can search though all our publications online. Each report includes an executive summary.
We don’t provide advance copies of our reports. Everyone gains access at the same time when they are posted on our website.
We send Parliamentarians an e-mail the day before a report is released, telling them what the report will be about and inviting them or their staff to attend a briefing session the following day.
After that briefing for parliamentarians, another one is held for the media. Anyone can register on our website to be notified of briefings. We promote our publications and services through our Twitter accounts, @pbo_dpb (in English) @dpb_pbo (en français).
Each report identifies a contact person who can provide background information about the report. Parliamentarians can also request one-on-one briefings. Our team is prepared to explain and comment on reports in either official language.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer are the official spokespeople for the office. They are the only staff who can provide on-the-record statements. They can be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 613-992-8026. Please provide your contact information, questions, and submission deadline (where applicable).
We will generally provide our complete analysis and data upon request, except where that data was received in confidence or where it would be too difficult. When we receive information from government departments in confidence, we won’t disclose it without their consent. This is a legal requirement under section 79.4 of the Parliament of Canada Act.
In order to request PBO analysis, you must be a member of the House of Commons or Senate.
The PBO is mandated to respond to requests for estimates of “the financial cost of any proposal that relates to a matter over which Parliament has jurisdiction.” We will consider requests related to other aspects of our mandate.
When parliamentarians request analysis, we offer them the option of remaining anonymous or being named. That doesn’t mean that the analysis will remain confidential. It just means that when we publish the analysis, we won’t mention who requested it.
Producing reliable analysis takes time. Usually, it will take us a few months to produce our analysis. Some simple analysis, such the impact of simple small tax changes, can be completed instantly using our online tax tool. Other analysis has taken more than a year to complete.
Many of our projects are delayed or limited because of challenges accessing government information required for the performance of our mandate.