Skip to main content

Liberal finance critic Scott Brison said the Conservatives are adding to economic instability by delaying the budget and not saying when it will come.Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press

A late federal budget is fuelling concerns that the already rushed Parliamentary approval process will be even more frenetic as MPs head to the election trail.

Budgets are usually released in February or March, which the Conservative government then follows with an omnibus budget bill that is studied ahead of final votes in June.

But Finance Minister Joe Oliver has said the 2015 budget will not come until April at the earliest, and could be "a little bit later," raising the possibility it could be released in May.

"We're waiting for some stability in what is a very unstable commodity market and so we'll get more information by April or a little bit later and then we'll be in a position to make the final decisions that you need to make when you introduce a budget," Mr. Oliver said in a Jan. 21 interview with Bloomberg from Davos, Switzerland, where he was attending meetings of the World Economic Forum.

The House of Commons must be sitting for the government to deliver a budget, and it has a two-week recess in April around Easter. Members of Parliament are scheduled to sit on the first two days of April and then do not return to Ottawa until Monday, April 20.

The House of Commons is scheduled to rise for the summer on June 23 or sooner. Because the federal election is scheduled for Oct. 19, Parliament would not meet again once it rises in June.

After a budget, the government introduces one or two bills to make the legal changes required to implement the measures announced in it.

In recent years, the Conservative government has been criticized for introducing major policy changes through these bills that sometimes have no connection at all to the budget document.

Unlike standalone bills, policy changes that are part of a budget bill receive far less scrutiny from Parliamentary committees in terms of hearing from witnesses who have expertise in particular policy areas.

Liberal finance critic Scott Brison said the Conservatives are adding to economic instability by delaying the budget and not saying when it will come.

"If the government introduces a budget potentially close to when Parliament rises, that will deny Parliament and the finance committee the opportunity to actually do our job and it would deny Canadians real parliamentary scrutiny of the budget, but the Conservatives don't want scrutiny of their budget," he said. "For the Conservatives, this budget is an election platform and they will do everything they can to avoid real Parliamentary scrutiny of it."

NDP finance critic Nathan Cullen said it appears not enough sitting days will be left to review the budget properly before the summer recess and the ensuing federal election.

"I have a concern about whether they have enough runway left in the year to get a budget introduced, properly reviewed and passed, or is this going to be holding a gun to Parliament's head, rushing this thing through because these guys are panicking," he said. "I don't know what he's trying to buy with more time, other than the hope of higher [oil] prices."