As I indicated earlier, up until about 2006 there was a logic, an order, whereby the budget was first, then the estimates. part IIIs used to be tabled with the estimates, and there used to actually be a lock-up for the estimates at that point in time, so that officials were available to the media in order to go through the numbers. That created quite a flurry of activity in the media during that day and the next day.
Since 2006, we seem to have gone away from that process more and more. I'm not saying it didn't happen in the past, but since 2006 we've gone away from it more and more. Part of the reason, of course, is elections. If you hold an election late in a fiscal year, it becomes very difficult or impossible to table a budget. You go on Governor General warrants. As soon as the House comes back, then you are required to table those Governor General warrants. The budget may not be ready yet for tabling, but you have to table the other ones.
So there are reasons why there are delays at certain points in time. But normally what would happen is that the major policy decisions with a budget are made at the end of the last calendar year, so that by December a budget is largely put in place. What you're waiting for after that is to know whether there is going to be any new economic information that could impact upon the budget's economic projections and then upon the fiscal projections and the projections of the deficit or surplus.
You may want to wait a little longer to get a better feel as to what is happening on the economic front, because it could have a major impact on your budget projections. Having said that, however, what information do you get after, say, December of the preceding calendar year? You get the fourth-quarter national accounts results at the end of February; however, you also get information on the inter-months within the last quarter, to give you a fairly good idea what is going to happen for that final quarter of the year and for the year as a whole. So I would argue that by the end of January, there's not much more information that you're going to get to help you finalize your budget to table in February.
So—to me, anyway—there's no reason that a budget can't be tabled in February based on the information you have at that point in time. Something might happen in February that would throw you way off, but that could be acknowledged in a supplementary statement shortly after the tabling of the budget.
There's no reason why, in my view, the estimates cannot be tabled after the budget, if the budget is tabled in mid-February. That was the practice before. It was the practice when we didn't have all the computerization that we have today. I don't see any reason why it can't be done. The same thing goes for the reports on plans and priorities.