We hope you liked our review of the 2013 Federal Budget. Just to round off last week’s commetary on the all things budgetary, I thought I’d offer a few thoughts on the dangers of coming to snap conclusions about government policy from a budget document.
Obviously, there’s the problem of time. It’s tough to try to get everything together, in a nice tight package, in the space of three or four hours; unlike the dudes who do news coverage for the networks and dailies, we haven’t spent all day in lock-up with the document. That doesn’t just lead to the odd spelling error (oops), it means we sometimes miss things entirely.
The big(ish) one we missed this time was a little line on page 194, which says:
In the coming year, the Government will examine the Indirect Costs Program in consultation with the post-secondary sector, including the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, to ensure that the program is meeting its objective of reinforcing excellence in post-secondary research.
Now, this could mean a lot of things. It could just be an indication that the government is planning to do some sort of due-diligence program review. Worst case scenario (though I doubt this is the case), it means a penny-pinching government might be out to slash the program.
Or – and this is what they don’t tell you in civics class – it might amount to nothing at all. Sometimes the Government of Canada puts stuff in budgets, and then never follows-up. In 2011, the Government pledged to reallocate $60 million of HRSDC money, over three years, in order to “promote enrolment in key disciplines related to the digital economy such as science, technology, economics, and mathematics”. Well, we’re heading into year three, and, as far as I know, this still hasn’t happened, which kind of makes you wonder how last week’s pledge of spending millions promoting “in-demand” subjects is going to play-out.
Or how about this, from 2010:
The Government will engage in a new approach to providing support to First Nations and Inuit post-secondary students to ensure that students receive the support they need to attend post-secondary education. The new approach will be effective and accountable, and will be coordinated with other federal student support programs.
This also never happened. And while the PSSSP is ripe for an overhaul, given this government’s not-altogether-happy track record with First Nations, it’s probably just as well that it didn’t.
A line in a budget is only a statement of intent. It takes a lot of work to get it from there, to being the law of the land. And you just can’t tell on budget night what’s what.