The Bull Meter: Stephen Harper on ministerial budgets

Are cuts to ministerial spending just creative accounting?

[mac_quote person=”Stephen Harper” date=”April 16, 2011″]The budgets of ministers’ offices are being cut by 11 per cent — that’s what the Conservative government is doing[/mac_quote]

[mac_bull score=”1″]

A Canadian Press article from April 16 questioned the soundness of Stephen Harper’s claim, saying it had obtained a document showing that international travel for ministers, their staff and parliamentary secretaries is being transferred from ministerial office budgets to their departments. Some of the cuts alluded to by Harper, the Canadian Press concluded, could be simply “accounting changes.”

To test that hypothesis, we asked Drew McPherson, a Nova Scotia-based computer whiz who keeps tabs on government expenses, to calculate how much four randomly selected ministers’ offices had spent on international  in fiscal year 2009-2010. We then compared his data with those ministers’ total gross expenditures, as reported in the Public Accounts of Canada. The result? The transfer of international travel expenses to a separate budget would have only a minor impact on ministerial budget, certainly not enough to make up for an 11 per cent cut in spending.

In his analysis, McPherson picked the offices of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Minister of National Revenue, Minister of State (Agriculture), and Minister of Health. For all four, money spent on international travel ranged from 0.7 to 2.6 per cent of total expenses. Therefore, while the new accounting rules certainly help reduce ministers’ budgets–at least aesthetically–the extent to which they do so is quite limited.

Heard something that doesn’t sound quite right? Send quotes from the campaign trail to macbullmet[email protected] and we’ll tell you just how much bull they contain.


Public Accounts of Canada 2010 Volume III

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