During the 120-day period before a fixed date general election, or when an election is called and Parliament is dissolved, the PBO is mandated to respond to requests from political parties and independent members of the House of Commons, to estimate the financial cost of any campaign proposal they are considering making.
The PBO’s purpose is to deliver non-partisan, independent financial cost estimates of election campaign proposals. In this context, a proposal refers to a political party’s plan to introduce a particular policy or program, during an election.
Section 79.21 of the Parliament of Canada Act, sets the broad rules of engagement between the PBO and political parties in the months before a general election.
Following stakeholder consultations, the PBO developed the Estimating the Financial Cost of Election Campaign Proposals: A Framework, to provide transparency on how the election proposal costing mandate will be delivered during the 2019 general election. The Framework was designed to mitigate unforeseen challenges, during this period of election proposal costing.
When it comes to receiving requests for the costing of election campaign proposals, the PBO may only receive requests from specified individuals, within two main groups:
- Recognized political parties; and
- Independents – who are members of the House of Commons, but not a member of a political party caucus.
In responding to requests, the PBO will only estimate the financial cost of an election campaign proposal that is:
- Legally and practically feasible;
- Within federal jurisdiction;
- Specific and sufficiently detailed; and is
- Intended for a political party’s, or independent member’s, own platform.
Equally important are the specifics around what the PBO will not do, when it comes to requests for election costing, such as the PBO:
- Will not cost full campaign platforms – only proposals;
- Will not advise those making the request, on details of a proposal;
- Will not discuss a party’s platform, proposal, or cost estimate; and
- Will not certify cost estimates prepared by other organizations.