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Your Pre-Budget Consultation Cheat Sheet

Your Pre-Budget Consultation Cheat Sheet

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Pre-budget season has begun. Never written a submission before? It’s not too late to get involved!  

We’ve got your back with information on why you should submit and tips on how to do this well. 

The House of Commons Finance Committee recently released its call for pre-budget consultation briefs as the government considers its policy priorities for the 2021 federal budget.

Every year we review the submissions from charities and nonprofits to get a sense of what the sector is asking for. The number of submissions has grown from around 40 charities in 2014, to over 100 last year. While this growth is promising and reflective of an increasingly engaged sector, it is a very small portion of Canada’s 80,000+ organizations. You can help this figure skyrocket for Budget 2021.

Can I participate in the consultations as a charity or a nonprofit?

For those of you who may have concerns due to regulation…the answer is simple: YES, you can and you should.

Why might you submit a consultation brief?

According to Chief Economist Brian Emmett, it is a mistake to think about the federal budget as an economic plan. Rather, “it’s a statement about the government’s agenda and how this agenda will be fulfilled.” If organizations have a view on these priorities, this is the time to come out and talk about it.

Each year, when preparing the federal budget, the government has to consider how it can address the well-being of its citizens, and it has invited you to advise them with this process. As nonprofits & charities, you exist for public benefit. Arguably no group of actors is better placed to advise them on this than our sector organizations; you are the experts when it comes to the intricacies of your causes and the needs of your communities.

What should you include in the brief?

What issues are you grappling with as you work to serve your missions? There is a good chance federal policy can help address the problems you see, or that federal programming may leverage and even scale the successes you’ve had in your service delivery. Keep in mind that requesting the removal or refinement of existing federal policies may also help to alleviate some of the challenges associated with your mission.

The Finance Committee usually poses questions to guide the submission process, those who participate are expected to frame their policy recommendations around these themes. This year’s question is: What measures could the federal government take to restart the Canadian economy, as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic?

The pandemic has shed the light on the need for a stronger foundation for our sector. In order for our organizations to remain resilient in the face of crises and keep serving our communities, we need to rally around specific structural recommendations, such as a need for a Home in Government for our sector and Grants & Contribution reforms. Once we publish our own submission, we encourage you to review our recommendations and include some or all of our recommendations in your own brief if you agree with them. 

How do you do this, and do it well?

To save you time and guide you through the process, we created a Pre-budget toolkit.
In it, you’ll find: 

  • An infographic explaining the federal budget process
  • Instructions to take part in the process
  • A template

Consider not doing it alone

Many organizations decide to enter this process as a coalition (see Green Budget Coalition’s submission below). This has several advantages for those with common interests and vision for the budget, particularly for smaller organizations.

With coalitions, organizations are able to coordinate efforts on producing the document instead of overlapping with similar recommendations. You may also be more effective if you can be seen speaking with a cohesive voice, together with key players in your interest area. Finally, operating in this way makes communications efforts more impactful, should you decide to mobilize public support for your policy vision.

Why stop there? Go public with your asks

According to Brian, “submitting your pre-budget recommendations to government is your chance to go on record with what you care about.” But why stop there? After you send in your submission, you might consider penning a blog post for your supporters, publishing the entire submission on your website and highlighting it via your communications vehicles and social media. Remember, advocacy is a long game. If you believe in your vision for federal policy, take every opportunity to voice this loud and clear. In Brian’s words: “get out there and illuminate the darkness.”

Some useful examples

Canada’s Colleges and Institutes (Brief for Budget 2020) 
Canadian Women’s Foundation (Brief for Budget 2020) 
Imagine Canada (Brief for Budget 2020) 
March of Dimes (Brief for Budget 2020) 
YMCA Canada (Brief for Budget 2020) 
Green Budget Coalition (Brief for Budget 2020) 

We’re hoping we’ll see your brief this year during our review of the consultation submissions!

Questions? Connect with us at


Pre-budget toolkit

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