Canada’s Federal Budget Goes From Big Secret to ‘Roadshow’

Even for a country with a system of government that is prone to keeping things confidential, the secrecy that once surrounded federal budgets stood out.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a housing announcement in Calgary on Friday.Credit…Jeff Mcintosh/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

For decades, both Liberal and Conservative federal governments gradually eroded that once seemingly sacred concept with selective advance leaks.

But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken it to a new level. Instead of leaks attributed to anonymous sources, the prime minister has been traveling the country to give Canadians a preview of a variety of major budget measures. Many of them appear to be intended to lure back younger voters to his Liberal Party, including spending to increase housing, expanding child care programs and introducing a national school food program.

There may be little in the way of big announcements left for Chrystia Freeland, the finance minister, to unveil when she presents the actual budget on April 16.

“This preannouncement of the budget roadshow — we’ve never seen that before at the prime ministerial level,” Jonathan Malloy, a political scientist at Carleton University who studies Parliament, told me. “There has to be an election next year and the government is not doing well in the polls. So that’s an important factor. He needs the coverage; he needs the supposed good news.”

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