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Canadian Public Finance

Canadian Public Finance

Explaining Budgetary Institutions and the Budget Process in Canada
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Preface to the English Edition


This book is the English translation of one written in French at the request of a European publisher. Such a request from abroad gives a good indication of the curiosity that exists outside of Canada about how Canadian public institutions function and, in particular, the country’s budgetary process. Indeed, Canada is often cited for its budgetary control mechanisms, which have been in place for quite a few years now to slow the growth of public expenditures, and its federal system, which emphasizes the sharing of jurisdiction (including fiscal responsibilities) among different levels of government.


It quickly became clear, as I was writing this book, that its content also had to target a Canadian readership. Very little has been written explaining how Canadian governments formulate and manage their budgets and addressing the role that budgets play in today’s democracies. Moreover, many of the studies published on Canada are limited in scope, analysing either the federal government or a single province. Although the budgetary systems of the federal and provincial governments are similar, they are not identical, and some provincial and territorial governments have recently undertaken important innovations. Therefore, I wrote this book for both Canadian and foreign readers, and I have tried to present an overall view of budgetary policies and issues across Canada, rather than focusing on the federal scene or on a single province or territory.


This edition is not significantly different from the original French one. However, I have made some changes. First, I updated most of the statistical and budgetary data presented in the tables and figures in order to present the most recent information available. Second, I added new English-language references, especially in the reading suggestions at the end of each chapter. I did not remove all the sources in French, since it seemed important to supply the broadest possible range of research on public finance in Canada. Finally, I included certain changes adopted recently that modify the budgetary procedure (for example, the Parliamentary Budget Officer of the Canadian Parliament is now an independent parliamentary agent), although they do not substantially transform the budgetary process. However, some proposed reforms that could have important repercussions, including presentation of gender-sensitive budgets, Senate reforms (notably with regard to adoption of bills), and changes to the information contained in the reports to be submitted to Parliament, have a serious chance of being adopted. At time of writing, these reforms were still on the drawing board, and we will no doubt have to wait several years to evaluate their effects if adopted.


In closing, I would like to acknowledge the following people and organizations for their support for this project: Mat Buntin, of University of Toronto Press, for the valuable support he provided since the early stages of this project; Käthe Roth, who translated the book, and whose judicious suggestions helped me focus my thoughts; the external evaluators for their enthusiasm and relevant comments (and I will ask their forgiveness if certain expectations were not fully met); and the Secrétariat du Québec aux relations canadiennes, for the financial assistance provided in the framework of its activities to support the promotion of works by francophone researchers across Canada. Finally, this book could not have been written without the contributions of my students, many of whom, over the years, have asked me questions and proposed avenues for further thought. Teaching is certainly one of the greatest sources of inspiration for academic research.


Geneviève Tellier
Ottawa, January 2018

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