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:

  • The 2019 federal general election will be the first time in Canadian history that political parties and independent members of the House of Commons, will be able to ask the PBO to provide a financial cost estimate of an election campaign proposal.

    In preparation for the 2019 general election, the PBO has developed the systems and capacity to manage all election proposal costing requests with the utmost commitment to security, confidentiality, and equality. To ensure the systems run efficiently and cohesively, the PBO conducted a test run of the election proposal costing process by using the Government’s Budget 2019. Similar to exercises conducted for the Costing 2018 Fall Economic Statement and Off-Cycle Measures and Costing Budget 2018 Measures, the Costing Budget 2019 Measures exercise was done to ensure the PBO’s capacity to cost a variety of policy initiatives, in a short period of time. The Costing Budget 2019 Measures exercise relied as much as possible on the templates and processes in the PBO’s Estimating the Financial Cost of Election Campaign Proposals: A Framework

    Budget 2019

    On March 19, 2019, when the Government released its Budget 2019, the PBO began an analysis of all the new measures introduced. This included an examination of measures for their eligibility for independent costing, a critical criteria for the exercise. 

    To learn more, please click on this link: Costing Budget 2019 Measures.

  • 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:


    • Election Proposal Costing Request Form (PDF / DOCX)
    • Cost estimate of Election Campaign Proposal (PDF / DOCX)
    • Election Proposal Costing Request Response Form (PDF / DOCX)
  • 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.