Federal budget process


This information from the Minister’s transition binder was current as of November 2019. We don’t update this page as it is part of the historical record.

The federal budget outlines the government’s fiscal, social and economic policies and priorities. The budget is generally tabled in Parliament early in the year (February or March), in advance of the fiscal year which begins on April 1. Later budgets are not unheard of, particularly for a new government.

The Department of Finance is responsible for preparing the annual Budget. The process is initiated when the Minister of Finance sends a letter to their counterparts soliciting proposals for funding. The letter often identifies general directions and key themes for the Budget.

While not yet confirmed, it is expected that the process will remain unchanged for Budget 2020 and that the Minister of Finance will write to all Ministers within the first few weeks of the Government taking office.

Budget proposals tend to fall under three main categories:

Portfolio organizations will develop proposals based on the three categories above, often in consultation with other government departments. The proposals describe the rationale for, and proposed uses of, new funding. Briefings will be scheduled with the Minister and the Minister’s office while the proposals are being developed. Finally, the Department will prepare a package of all portfolio proposals, along with a letter to the Minister of Finance summarizing the package for signature by the Minister. This letter can also express support for proposals put forward by other Ministers.

Decisions on what is to be funded through the Budget are made by the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister. Ministers are informed of the contents of the Budget in a Cabinet meeting held on the day the Budget is released in Parliament.

Receiving funding through the Budget usually does not constitute policy or program authority in itself. A Memorandum to Cabinet (MC) and/or Treasury Board Submission (TB Sub) is required to access funding. These steps can take place before the Budget is announced, for example, in the case of major priorities and commitments that the Government wishes to expedite.  More frequently, they take place after the Budget.

Budget announcements that require legislative change are addressed through one or more Budget Implementation Acts (BIAs), usually later in the spring or fall.

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