” Former House of Commons page Olivia Dorey was once one of the people hand-delivering the federal budget to MPs when the finance minister rose to deliver his speech.
That task inspired her to try to read through a budget so she knew better what it contained.
” And I couldn’t. I couldn’t find the numbers, I couldn’t make sense of what they were trying to explain … I’m used to doing my own personal budgets, and this book, this book was nothing like a budget to me,” she said in an interview in Ottawa.
Dorey studies public administration at the University of Ottawa, and is interested in politics. But she still couldn’t figure out the budget. That experience jarred her to begin a personal mission to build a website where people could key in some basic demographic information and find out how the federal budget affected them.
Some of that information is available — specific funding for a hospital or transit, for example, or qualifications for Old Age Security — but much of it is simply not publicly accessible, or hard to follow after an initial announcement.
That’s led Dorey to start lobbying MPs to build budgets differently.
” If I can’t understand public finance and find the information I need, what hope do other Canadians have understanding it?” Dorey said.
She believes federal, provincial and municipal budgets should be clear enough that people like her grandparents in Bridgewater, N.S., who don’t have university educations, can understand them. Her campaign led her to a strong ally: former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page.
Right now, there are several documents you have to read if you want to track a funding promise, including:
- The budget, the annual planning document for government spending.
- The estimates, which contain much more detailed information about spending.
- The supplementary estimates, the update to the estimates.
- The departmental performance reports, which recap how much was spent out of the amount budgeted, and staffing levels. “