Eyes on the budget
Victoria has appointed nationally respected economist Dr. Tim O’Neill to review and assess the economic and revenue projections contained in the upcoming provincial budget.
Given that this is an election year and governments, of all stripes, are wont to budget creatively, an independent eye on the numbers is a good thing.
A former chief economist and executive vice-president for the Bank of Montreal, O’Neill will review the work undertaken by finance ministry staff as the budget is finalized, with a specific focus on the underlying methodologies, processes and material assumptions the government has used in preparing its economic and revenue forecasts.
O’Neill will have the opportunity to review and evaluate all material supporting the province’s economic and revenue forecasts for the 2012-13 through 2015-16 fiscal years, and he will have complete access to finance ministry staff as needed.
O’Neill will provide the Minister of Finance with a written assessment of the minister’s economic and revenue forecasts. He will also be available on budget day to speak about this review. In 2005, following an 11-year stint with BMO, O’Neill founded his own consulting firm, O’Neill Strategic Economics, and has since provided economic and forecasting advice to the Canadian government and the governments of Ontario and Nova Scotia.
O’Neill was the first Canadian economist to be elected to the board of the Washington-based National Association for Business Economics, serving as its president from 2002 to 2003. He is also a visiting professor at Duke University in North Carolina. He now lives and works in P.E.I.
Having an independent look at the province’s forecasts will certainly help ensure the forecasts are defensible. The sad part, of course, is that any of this is needed ... yet it is.