[This post has been UPDATED, since its original publication, below — pw]
Here’s something curious. I’ve asked the Conservative Party about this, but their media office isn’t even acknowledging receipt of my query, so I’ll just put the questions here.
This is the second federal election in which the non-partisan Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) has had a role in adjudicating political parties’ claims about the costs of their big platform promises. Here’s how it works. Parties submit their platforms to the PBO, not in their entirety but in discrete chunks, and the PBO works out an estimate about how much each plank in the platform would cost. Then the PBO sends the estimates back to the parties, and when the parties give their consent, the PBO posts the cost estimates on its own website.
All of this is mightily complicated by the fact that this is a snap election, called when the Liberals felt like calling it. In a fixed election, the PBO would have up to 120 days before the beginning of the election to work on estimates, assuming parties submitted their plans long enough in advance. In this snap election, the PBO could only begin working on estimates when the campaign began, and is required to finish its work before Sept. 20. That’s five weeks instead of four months. Less than five weeks, in fact, because the PBO must send costing to the parties in time for them to clear its public release.
How’s the process going?
Here’s the page where the PBO posts its cost estimates. At this writing, mid-day on Sept. 2, it includes costing for 11 substantial Liberal promises, and one from the NDP—a big one, the party’s pharmacare proposal.
Where are the estimates for Conservative Party promises?
The Conservatives submitted their proposals to the PBO on or before Monday morning, Aug. 16—the second day of the campaign. We know this because that’s the day the Conservatives publicly released their platform, whose last page reads: “Canada’s Recovery Plan has been costed internally and is currently being reviewed by Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Office, whose costing will be included in subsequent editions.”
That was 17 days ago. Two other parties have submitted their promises to the budget office, either at the same time as the Conservatives or later, received estimates and cleared the public release of those estimates. Why haven’t the Conservatives?
The PBO wouldn’t answer my questions about the status of any party’s costing, except to remind me of the general process as I’ve described it above. They say it’s up to parties to decide when their numbers are released.
So I sent this email on Wednesday to the Conservative media office.
Hi,The Liberals authorized the PBO to release costing for several of their platform planks today. He’s had your platform in hand for at least as long as theirs. Has he costed any of your platform? If so, why isn’t that public and when will it be?