Trajectories and Consequences
Edited by John Wanna, Lotte Jensen and Jouke de Vries
Chapter 5: Discerning the Consequences and Integrity of Canada’s Budget Reforms: A Story of Remnants and Resilience
David A. Good and Evert A. Lindquist Describing and capturing the essence of budget reform is not easy. Each budget reform is often a reaction to the failings of the previous reform. Yesterday’s reforms become today’s practices and today’s practices become tomorrow’s problems. What was promised in reform announcements rarely gets implemented in practice. Indeed, the reality of budget reform is a ‘slippery and fluid phenomenon’ (Lindquist and White 1994). Understanding the intentions of reform, what gets done, and what was achieved requires time and perspective, and appreciation of the flow and legacy of previous reforms. When Canadian officials from the budget office meet annually with their counterparts from the 30 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), they talk about the ‘functions of the budget office’. Using the latest language, they reflect on ‘the role of fiscal rules’, ‘the political economy of reallocation’ and ‘budgeting and managing for performance’ (OECD 2003). Indeed, as Schick (1997) explains: ‘all budget systems – reformed and traditional – have three basic budget objectives: (i) to maintain aggregate fiscal discipline, (ii) to allocate resources in accord with government priorities, and (iii) to promote the efficient delivery of services’ (see also Allen and Tommasi 2001). Part of the story about budget reform in Canada is the changing relative importance of these objectives to government and the changing ways governments have gone about pursuing them. This chapter reviews Canadian experience with various budget reforms and assesses their effects on budget outcomes and process. The...
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