Last month, the Provincial and Federal governments recently got the chance to strike out a day on their calendars that was no doubt circled in red – Budget day. 

Over the last week, both Ontario’s Finance Minister, Peter Bethlenfalvy and Canada’s Finance Minister, Chrystia Freeland delivered their government’s budget, which is less of an exercise in explaining dollars and cents and more of a communications exercise in delivering the story of how each government envisions our future. 

Facts, figures, and decimal points play a heavy hand. But so to do consultations with stakeholder groups, elected officials, and citizens as each ministry builds their budget – their North Star. I got to see that process first hand during my tenure with Ontario’s former Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s Parliamentary Assistant, MP Yvan Baker. 

We conducted widespread consultation sessions in order to build that budget. We spoke with elected officials like city Councillors, MPPs and MPs who could speak to the specific needs of their communities and where there were gaps and opportunities. We spoke with stakeholder groups like community advocates, lobbyists, industry associations, and non-governmental organizations, unions, businesses, homeowners associations, local Rotary Clubs, and more who could, again, tell us about what their people needed, what was missing, and what success would look like for them. And then we spoke to citizens – individual voices that told us about their lives, what was important to them, what kept them up at night, what they were worried about for their own families and neighbours. 

The budget process I had the privilege to be involved in was thorough and not atypical. It’s the same process that our provincial and federal governments would have each completed in order to arrive at their recent budgets.

So looking at each government’s budget becomes an excellent litmus test for gauging how each understands us – its constituency. 

Through the budget – through the story the budget tells – we can learn how each interpret our values. How each understands our goals. Our challenges. Our idea of what success looks like. And the budget reveals how each government understands their role as agents for positive change. 

This past week, we heard two very important stories that each signal how these governments understand us today and what they believe we want as our future. 

So that’s why each budget is less a question of “how do the numbers work?” and more a question of “what do the numbers say about how we’re being understood?” 

Listen here for my take on the story being communicated in the Ontario Budget.