Remember “deliverology,” the big political buzzword when the Trudeau government took office in 2016?
Deliverology (coined by Sir Michael Barber, aide to Tony Blair, Britain’s former prime minister) is the science of delivering government policies and promises in a smooth, straightforward fashion – on time.
The concept was used, to some success, by the government of former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty. When many veterans of that government moved to Ottawa to work for Justin Trudeau, deliverology quickly became religion in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Deliverology is about clearly identifying priorities, setting targets, collecting data and, most important, having central oversight through a unit in the PMO reporting regularly to the prime minister.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, Donald Trump happened. Canada got caught up in a trade war with the U.S. Six provincial premiers aligned with the Trudeau government were replaced by Conservatives. Jody Wilson-Raybould. And so on.
The harsh reality of politics often interferes with the neatest of theory. This year’s federal budget demonstrates that.
Bruce Heyman, former U.S. ambassador to Canada, likes to say that in sports you watch the clock and in politics you watch the calendar. This past spring’s implementation legislation for the 2019 budget shows the Trudeau government was watching the calendar.
As reported on investmentexecutive.com, Bill C-97 is missing key measures announced in the March 19 budget. These measures include the government’s proposal to impose a $200,000 annual cap on employee stock option grants that are taxed effectively at the capital gains rate.
The Liberals are scrambling to get C-97 and Bill C-69 (the latter bill affects pipeline regulation) into the Senate and passed before Parliament rises on June 21. Parliament will not reconvene until after the October election, so the new tax treatment for stock options is unlikely to become law under the current government.
Other budget measures of interest to Bay Street that aren’t in C-97 include advanced life deferred annuities, measures affecting how unitholders of mutual funds and ETFs are taxed and changes that would prevent individual pension plans from being used to avoid taxation of commuted values.
Apparently, no one on Parliament Hill has noticed. That includes the Conservatives, who are too busy chasing scandal to care much about the budget.
C-97 also shows how little “mind share” financial markets have on the Hill these days compared with the days of Mulroney, Chrétien and Martin. The next chair of the Commons finance committee may want to address that after Oct. 21.
Still, there are issues worth noticing. The federal budget is supposed to be a blueprint for Canada’s economic and fiscal policies for up to five years ahead – policies that investors, corporate strategists and social planners can rely on.
Instead, the budget is becoming a glorified campaign platform. In the long run, is that good for the country?
Since the parliamentary budget officer already is beginning to look at the true cost of election platforms, perhaps he should also look at what portion of a given budget turns out to be actual policy – and how much is just campaign rhetoric.
And perhaps Parliament itself should be looking at whether standing election dates are really a good idea.
Before standing dates were introduced by the Harper government in 2007, federal governments had up to six years to call an election, giving them the luxury of going to the polls when it best suited them.
But taking away that incumbent advantage may have taken away from good government.
Normally, a government tables two budget implementation bills: one in the spring, the other in the autumn. That’s not possible this year, meaning much of the current budget is no more than campaign rhetoric.
Modern budgets may make good politics, but not necessarily good government.
As for deliverology, it has disappeared into the place where fads such as hula hoops, parachute pants, pet rocks and tie-dyed T-shirts go to die.