The following FAQs are intended to provide answers to the most frequently asked questions about EPC. These will be updated periodically as new questions arise.
1. What is the PBO’s role around elections?
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 during the 120-day period before a fixed date general election, or when an election is called and Parliament is dissolved.
PBO’s purpose is to deliver non-partisan, independent financial cost estimates of election campaign proposals.
2. When was the Election Proposal Costing (EPC) platform launched?
The Election Proposal Costing (EPC) platform was launched for the 2019 election campaign. 2019 marked the first time in which the PBO offered EPC services to political parties and independent MPs. This platform is a landmark initiative in Canada. The PBO costed over 200 requests from political parties, over 100 of which were published on the PBO website.
3. What is the added value of this new service?
This new mandate of the PBO to cost election proposals provides non-partisan information to Canadian citizens as they prepare to make their voting choices during the election.
4. Who can request estimates from PBO?
The trigger for preparing an estimate is a request from an authorized representative of a recognized party in the House of Commons or a member of the House of Commons who is not a member of a recognized party (that is an independent).
A recognized party is one which is represented by 12 or more members of the House of Commons.
5. How to request an EPC estimate?
A request for an EPC estimate must be made in writing. The PBO can ask for additional information from the requester about the proposal. If the requestor is placing multiple requests, they may indicate the order of priority in which they would like the PBO to prepare estimates for their elections proposals.
A requester can withdraw a request any time before the PBO provides the cost estimate for the proposal.
6. Are all election proposal cost estimates prepared by the PBO published on the website?
The Parliament of Canada Act requires PBO to keep all EPC estimates confidential until the party or the independent MP authorizes the PBO to publish them. The PBO will post an estimate on the website only after receiving written confirmation from the requester that they may publish.
7. When can the PBO receive requests for electoral proposals?
Requests can be made until the day before the general election. Given the work involved in preparing a cost estimate, it is very unlikely that the PBO will be able to provide an estimate for a request received within the final days before the general election.
8. How will the PBO ensure an equitable sharing of the resources of its team?
Equity and transparency were key principles that guide the PBO’s election costing work planning process. To ensure an equitable sharing of resources and to meet anticipated demand, the PBO established an equal time and resource budget for the recognized parties, other parties represented in the House of Commons and independent MPs. This resource allocation allows candidates to receive the same level of service, regardless of political party affiliation.
9. Can anyone request the cost estimates of election measures?
Under the Parliament of Canada Act, only political parties with a member in the House at the time of dissolution of Parliament, as well as independent members may request cost estimates.
10. Is it possible to find out whether a cost estimate has been requested by a political party and whether the party has not consented to it being publicly disclosed?
The work done by the OPBO at the request of political parties during election campaigns remains confidential until the party authorizes the release of the estimate. Therefore, the PBO cannot disclose any information on requests or estimates without the party’s permission. Requests that the party decides not to release during the election period will never be disclosed by the PBO.
11. Can the PBO reveal when a cost estimate will be published on the OPBO website?
The PBO cannot reveal estimated publication dates for forthcoming costings or the number of costings that are currently being developed. The publication dates for the election proposal costings depend both on the time required to complete the analysis and on parties’ decisions on when to release them. The OPBO’s efforts are fully focused on the production of election proposal costing notes to ensure that they are prepared in the shortest amount of time possible.
12. Can the PBO intervene publicly to rebut party statements regarding the cost estimates of election measures?
As an independent Agent of Parliament, the PBO has to remain non-partisan. During the campaign, the PBO will only speak to the costing process in a general manner and will not comment on specific costings or policy proposals. However, he OPBO may intervene if a party misrepresents the PBO’s work, for example by suggesting that a party’s own estimate originates from the PBO, or if a party presents a PBO cost estimate as an endorsement of a proposal.