Budget Season: Why it Matters

‘Tis that time of year. Budget season is upon us. Get your popcorn popping because the Provincial budget is set to be delivered on March 26th followed by the Federal budget on April 16th. I know there are people out there that may think ‘who cares’ or ‘why do budgets matter’ but they DO matter, they matter quite a lot to our families, our small businesses, and our communities.

Budgets lay the foundation for essential services that we need like healthcare, infrastructure, and education.  They might seem dry, but the truth is budgets play a tremendous role in our communities. They hold great significance to the well-being of our economy, our local businesses, and our families. Learning where the money is allocated and how it may impact or benefit small businesses, build on community initiatives, and help families is important. Informed communities are strong communities. We work hard for our money each day and by learning how budgets work we can gain a deeper understanding of where our taxes are invested and why. Having knowledge and understanding of how budgets impact our daily lives can provide us with a sense of purpose and connection to where our hard-earned money is spent. Knowledge empowers us, if you’ve ever found yourself complaining in traffic, grumbling at a healthcare facility, or groaning when you look at the price of gas, those concerns are directly linked to budgets. We have a voice that we can use for more than just muttering under our breath about what we don’t like. We can play a role in shaping the budgets. Sharing our voice in the arena can make a difference (think of how powerful collective voices sound cheering at a game versus one lonely ‘whoop’ in the crowd). Use your voice to share where you want your money to go.

Each level of government is responsible for its own budgetary responsibilities, whether your interest is international trade or foreign affairs, healthcare, social programming, post-secondary education, or local public transit and waste management services, there is a budget for you. You may have more interest in the federal or provincial budgets, or maybe you feel more connected to the municipal budget that more directly impacts your daily life, wherever your interest lies there is a way to get involved.

‘Pre-budget’ season for each level of government offers plenty of opportunities to become involved in their budget process. A good first step is to meet with your local representatives, meet your ward councilor, your MPP and your MP, add your name to their email distribution lists and/or watch their social media and government websites so when governments are seeking public input you will know how and when you can share your feedback. When governments are holding pre-budget consultations via meetings, online or public forums, town halls or offering surveys around budget discussions, tune in, attend, ask questions, share your input. When budget items are reviewed in standing committees, look for ways to participate. Standing committee meetings are posted to government pages with links to prepare a written submission or you can request to appear in person.

Beyond the general impact of budgets, for small business owners and entrepreneurs, the budget carries a different weight, as it directly impacts businesses. Decisions and key elements of the budget may impact infrastructure projects that help move goods, provide offerings of skills training and workforce development, not to mention influencing how and where people are spending their money. A small business owner may use this time as an opportunity to look for potential tax breaks, loan programs or grants, and other initiatives that may provide relief such as reducing red tape or administrative burdens.  By actively engaging with the budget process and advocating for programs that benefit small businesses, owners can ensure their businesses are able to maximize the benefits of these opportunities for their continued success.

Engaging in opportunities through your local chambers, boards of trade, community organizations or advocacy groups that you are interested in and joining their advocacy efforts is another great way to stay informed. Chambers and boards of trade are an essential tool for small businesses, especially at budget time as they can provide many resources, workshops, networking events and advocacy tools that can help you stay informed, become active and understand the budget process and how it impacts local businesses.

Just as small businesses are critical to strong and thriving communities, so too are budgets, and we all have a responsibility to our communities, local businesses, and the services we use to advocate for investments to programming and funding that benefit our families, strengthen our businesses, and grow prosperous communities.

At the end of the day, we may not all share the same views of where money is spent or how it flows but at the very least being informed and involved in the process may foster a deeper sense of connection to your community.


– Shannon Thornton, Whitby Chamber of Commerce Advocacy Committee – Government Relations Officer, Ontario Tech University