Who we are 

 The Parliamentary Budget Officer

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. 

Mandate and establishing legislation

The PBO is an officer of the Senate and the House of Commons appointed to hold office during good behaviour for a once renewable term of not more than seven years.

The PBO’s mandate is to provide independent analysis to Parliament on the budget, the estimates and other documents, as well as matters of particular significance relating to the nation’s finances or economy listed in the PBO’s annual work plan; and at the request of a committee or a parliamentarian, to estimate the financial cost of any proposal that relates to matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction. Certain committees can also request analyses of the nation’s finances or economy or the estimates.

In the months before a general election, the PBO has an additional mandate of responding to requests from political parties or independent members of the House of Commons to estimate the financial cost of any election campaign proposal that the party or member is considering making.

The PBO’s purpose is to support Parliament by providing analysis, including analysis of macroeconomic and fiscal policy, for the purposes of raising the quality of parliamentary debate and promoting greater budget transparency and accountability.

The PBO’s legislative mandate and powers are set out in the Parliament of Canada Act.

Past PBOs

  • Sonia L'Heureux (Interim, March 2013 to September 2013)
  • Kevin Page (March 2008 to March 2013)

 The Office of Parliamentary Budget Officer

The Organization

The Parliamentary Budget Officer is supported by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, which at the moment comprises about 17 staff members.

The Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer

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.

Our Role

The PBO provides independent, authoritative and non-partisan financial and economic analysis. In doing so, the PBO supports parliamentarians in carrying out their constitutional roles of scrutinizing the raising and spending of public monies and generally overseeing the government’s activities.

The PBO strives to be responsive to the needs and concerns of parliamentarians who are always welcome to ask questions related to any aspect of our mandate. 

Our Values

As in interim measure, all staff adhere to the Values and Ethics Code for the Library of Parliament, until the PBO implements its own code. 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:

IMPARTIALITY

We ensure impartiality by providing objective information and services without regard to political affiliation.

TRUST

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.

EXCELLENCE

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 Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

Planning and Results

For the period between 2013 and 2018, the PBO is pursuing five strategic priorities:

  1. Expand the PBO’s current service offering by adding new, high-quality products and analysis tailored to the needs of parliamentarians.
     
  2. Expand information sharing through social media.
     
  3. Support ongoing professional development for employees, in line with operational requirements and the execution of the PBO’s legislative mandate and strategic priorities.
     
  4. Defend and clarify the legislative right to obtain the relevant information required to carry out the PBO’s mandate.
     
  5. Produce an annual administrative report.

We report on our results through our annual administrative report. We also consult with parliamentarians and stakeholders to help us gauge the degree to which we are meeting their needs within the PBO’s mandate.

Quality Assurance

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.

To whom are we accountable?

The PBO is accountable to Parliament.

On a transitional basis, the Office continues to operate in compliance with the Library of Parliament’s contracting rules and will continue to proactively disclose on our website all contracts of more than $10,000 and all travel and hospitality expenses.

When and why was the PBO created?

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 parliamentarians 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, Ralph Goodale, the then 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’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 at the request of committees mandated to study the estimates.

The Liberal Party of Canada’s 2015 election platform committed to making the PBO “truly independent of the government” and “accountable only – and directly – to Parliament”. The platform also committed to expand the PBO’s mandate to include “the costing of party election platforms”. These changes were included in the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1 and came into force in September 2017.

 What we do

 Parliament’s financial and economic analyst

The PBO’s mandate is to provide independent analysis to Parliament on the budget, the estimates and other documents, as well as matters of particular significance relating to the nation’s finances or economy listed in the PBO’s annual work plan; and at the request of a committee or a parliamentarian, to estimate the financial cost of any proposal that relates to matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction. Certain committees can also request analyses of the nation’s finances or economy or the estimates.

In the months before a general election, the PBO has an additional mandate of responding to requests from political parties or independent members of the House of Commons to estimate the financial cost of any election campaign proposal that the party or member is considering making.

By providing independent and non-partisan financial and economic analysis, we support Parliament with the goal of raising the quality of parliamentary debate on questions of public money and promoting greater budget transparency and accountability.

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 (OECD) – under which a network of PBOs has been established – refers to them as “parliamentary budget officials” and “independent fiscal institutions”. In Canada, there is one other office with a mandate similar to that of the PBO: Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office.

Analysis of the state of the nation’s finances

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, at the request of a parliamentarian, we provided an assessment of the Fiscal Impacts of Lower Oil Prices.

Analysis of the government’s spending plans

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.

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.

Analysis of trends in the Canadian economy

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.

Estimation of the financial cost of proposals within Parliament’s jurisdiction

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.

 Where and how to find the PBO's reports

 Reports

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.

The PBO provides an embargoed copy of a report prepared at the request of a committee or a parliamentarian to the committee chair or parliamentarian one business day before making it public. The PBO provides an embargoed copy of any other report to the Speakers of the Senate and of the House of Commons one business day before making the report public.

 Oral briefings

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.

 Interviews / Statements

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 pbo-dpb@parl.gc.ca or calling 613-992-8026. Please provide your contact information, questions, and submission deadline (where applicable). 

 Accessing our data

We will generally provide our complete analysis and data upon request. We are unable to provide data where that they are subject to disclosure restrictions under section 79.5 of the Parliament of Canada Act, where we purchased the data and they are subject to a confidentiality agreement, or where it would be too difficult to provide the data in a usable form. When we receive information from government departments, we can’t disclose it unless the disclosure is essential for the performance of the PBO’s mandate.

 How to request an analysis?

 Eligibility

In order to request PBO analysis on a matter other than to estimate the financial cost of any election campaign proposal, you must either be a member of the Senate or the House of Commons.

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. 

 Procedure

You can submit a request by e-mailing pbo-dpb@parl.gc.ca or by calling 613-992-8026.

 Confidentiality

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.

 Timeline

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.

 Detailed Organizational Information

 Staff and Policies

 Corporate Documentation

 Careers at the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer

Click here for more information about Career Opportunities at the Office of the PBO.