Six weeks to cut $15 billion

With a new mandate to cut billions in federal spending, cabinet members might have to skip the icebreakers and head straight to the whiteboard at their team retreat next week. 

What happened: Canada’s new Treasury Board President (and self-proclaimed chief operating officer of the government) Anita Anand is giving cabinet ministers just six weeks to find 15 billion extra dollars kicking around in the federal government’s 2023 budget. 

  • Three weeks ago, almost 80% of Canada’s ministers found themselves in a new cabinet role, with Anand shifting from the defence portfolio to the Treasury Board. 

Why it matters: Federal expenses are projected to climb from $470.4 billion in the current fiscal year to $555.7 billion in 2027-28. With two years to go until the next fixed date election, reining in expenses is part of a broader government push to spruce up its economic record.

  • Per The Globe and Mail, pandemic-era support for businesses and individuals is no more, but the government continues to spend well over its pre-pandemic projections.

  • By 2028, the government is expected to clock in a $14 billion deficit, far from Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s November projection of a $4.5 billion surplus by then.

Bottom line: Cutting $15 billion in federal spending is no easy feat, but it might prove to be especially difficult with directives against reducing headcount (up 40% since 2015), creating internal pressures for service delivery, or significantly cutting services for Canadians.—SB