Behind the scenes of a federal budget lock-up

Federal budget day gives CPA Canada the opportunity to reinforce the knowledge, expertise and influence of Canada’s professional accountants via mainstream and social media. Here’s a peek at how that’s accomplished.

On budget day, CPA Canada finds out if the government’s fiscal plan for the coming year aligns with the Canadian ideal of good business by focusing on both economic and social development to create a stronger Canada.

“The federal budget is of key interest to our members and stakeholders, especially when you consider issues such as the management of government finances, taxation, innovation and keeping Canada competitive,” says Joy Thomas, CPA Canada’s president and CEO. “It’s essential that the profession’s voice be heard.”

Why The Lock-up Matters

Thomas spent most of the day surrounded by editors and reporters who had gathered in the nation’s capital to report on the government’s financial blueprint.

“Having a presence in the media lock-up is vital,” says Thomas. “It allows CPA Canada to determine what aspects of the budget are attracting attention and what’s most likely to be of interest to stakeholders and the public. This is part of our public interest mandate.”

Thomas says CPA Canada is a leader in providing annual commentary about the budget’s effect on individual Canadians and the business community.

INSIDE THE MEDIA LOCK-UP

Thomas was one of several CPA Canada representatives inside the media lock-up. Tax experts Kevyn Nightingale, CPA, CA, and Kim Moody, FCPA, FCA, each volunteered to serve as CPA Canada special budget team members. Both sit as volunteers on CPA Canada tax committees and have participated in the budget media lock-up for several years. Nightingale is an international tax partner at MNP while Moody is director, Canadian Tax Advisory for Moodys Gartner Tax Law.

They talked to Member News about the highlights of working in the no Internet, no phone zone to report on the federal budget.

How did this year’s lock-up differ from other years? What surprised you?

Media lockupKevyn Nightingale: One of the best things about lock-up is knowing that I’m among the first people outside of the Department of Finance who knows what’s in store for the country. Sometimes it’s exciting. Sometimes it’s boring. It all depends on what’s in the particular budget.

The 2017 budget was a snoozer. From a tax perspective, there simply weren’t many changes. The government avoided making commitments that might not be sustainable in light of anticipated U.S. tax reductions. But the 2016 budget was fascinating. It showed the direction of tax policy for the government’s first term.

Kim Moody: For a dyed-in-the-wool tax geek like me, being able to represent your profession in one of the most important annual tax days is an honour. It’s a privilege and something I’ll brag about to my grandkids someday.

This year’s lock-up was different from previous ones primarily because the tax content was very light. Fiscally speaking, it would have been nice to have the government outline a timetable to end the annual deficits.

As a CPA Canada representative, what special preparation is required?

Kevyn Nightingale: CPA Canada does a great job of preparing us. They provide documents outlining issues the government has hinted at through the media that it may address. We’re also up to speed on what issues CPA Canada has asked to be addressed through a pre-budget submission and other avenues. These days, there aren’t a whole lot of major surprises in budgets, but the details are still important and interesting.

Kim MoodyKim Moody: It’s important to prepare to ensure that the message that the national body has carefully considered is studied and adopted. I was in the lock-up to proudly represent CPA Canada, answer media questions, contribute to the overall commentary and get a good grasp of the content.

What does budget day look like?

Kevyn Nightingale: The first thing I do in the lock-up is go down the index looking for surprises. (There were none this year). Then I notice that some things I was expecting, like a capital gains tax increase, are missing. Then I notice how small the tax changes are, and I realize it’s going be quieter than in previous years. So different from last year when I was frenzied: explaining things to the media, calculating tax and subsidy scenarios, et cetera.

Kim Moody: I promptly found my media partner — The Globe and Mail — and then made myself at home for the next several hours. I started studying and did so for the balance of the day. (That was sprinkled here and there with media interviews, discussions with the Department of Finance and Canada Revenue Agency officials, and discussions with colleagues.) It was mission accomplished by the time the media embargo was lifted. More media interviews were arranged after the lock-up ended.

  • Read Kim Moody’s commentary in this Globe and Mail article.
  • Read Kevyn Nightingale’s article on North Bay radio, Country 600.

What was your highlight?

Kevyn NightingaleKevyn Nightingale: I enjoy dealing with members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery. For people who have politics in their blood, this is the centre of the universe. The gallery is looking for expert reaction, and we’re there to provide it. It truly demonstrates the relevance of the Canadian accounting profession.

Kim Moody: My highlight during the lock-up, as usual, was discussing the budget documents directly with the Department of Finance and CRA officials. They’re always well prepared, friendly and very willing to help. The ability to directly interact with such officials is invaluable and always a highlight. On budget day, CPA Canada was certainly “there” and was often quoted and sought out for questions. Well done!

Editor’s note
The next issue of Member News will land in your inbox on Monday, June 12, 2017.