Election Proposal Costing


During the months before a federal election the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) responds to requests from political parties and independent members of the House of Commons, to estimate the financial cost of election campaign proposals.

Click on the tabs below to learn more about the PBO’s role during a general election.

  • During the 120-day period before a fixed date general election, or when an election is called and Parliament is dissolved, the PBO is mandated to respond to requests from political parties and independent members of the House of Commons, to estimate the financial cost of any campaign proposal they are considering making. 

    The PBO’s purpose is to deliver non-partisan, independent financial cost estimates of election campaign proposals. In this context, a proposal refers to a political party’s plan to introduce a particular policy or program, during an election.

    Section 79.21 of the Parliament of Canada Act, sets the broad rules of engagement between the PBO and political parties in the months before a general election.

    Following stakeholder consultations, the PBO developed the Estimating the Financial Cost of Election Campaign Proposals: A Framework, to provide transparency on how the election proposal costing mandate will be delivered during the 2019 general election. The Framework was designed to mitigate unforeseen challenges, during this period of election proposal costing. 

    Other information:

  • When it comes to receiving requests for the costing of election campaign proposals, the PBO may only receive requests from specified individuals, within two main groups:

    1. Recognized political parties; and
    2. Independents – who are members of the House of Commons, but not a member of a political party caucus.

    In responding to requests, the PBO will only estimate the financial cost of an election campaign proposal that is:

    • Legally and practically feasible;
    • Within federal jurisdiction;
    • Specific and sufficiently detailed; and is
    • Intended for a political party’s, or independent member’s, own platform.

    Equally important are the specifics around what the PBO will not do, when it comes to requests for election costing, such as the PBO:

    • Will not cost full campaign platforms – only proposals;
    • Will not advise those making the request, on details of a proposal;
    • Will not discuss a party’s platform, proposal, or cost estimate; and
    • Will not certify cost estimates prepared by other organizations.

    Who we work with

    In order to prepare the best possible estimates of the financial cost of an election campaign proposal, the PBO may request assistance from a government department. To ensure the confidentiality of the requests made by political parties and timely access to information, cooperation agreements, or Memorandum’s of Understanding (MOUs), have been signed with participating federal departments.

    The MOUs contain specific protocols that require strict confidentiality to be respected by all those involved.

    Listed below are the MOUs, as signed by the PBO and the participating federal departments:


  • In accordance with the Parliament of Canada Act, all election proposal cost estimates prepared by the PBO are published as they are announced by parties.