CRTC budgeting

The CRTC has a problem with budgeting.

Last year, I wrote about the CRTC’s 25% increase in the fees charged to telecom service providers. It turns out that it didn’t really need most that extra money after all. In its 2023 Telecommunications Fees Order, the CRTC said that it had a surplus of more than $7 million left over from last year’s fees.

That surplus is getting applied against the budget requirements for the current year (1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024), just a hair under $54 million.

The CRTC characterized the requirement for fees as “This estimated net billing represents a decrease of 1.37% compared to the amount for the 2022‑2023 fiscal year ($47.520 million).”

On a first glance, you might have read the CRTC’s short announcement and thought this is unusually frugal budgeting by a government agency. After all, it is a net billing decrease of 1.37%.

But, let’s look at what is really going on here.

A year ago, the CRTC said it needed $48M to cover “its estimated total telecommunications regulatory costs”. It had a surplus of $7.127M, meaning it really only spent $41M. It is now forecasting a requirement of $53.997M, an increase of $13M over last year’s amount, an increase of more than 30%.

Two important take aways from this announcement: the CRTC is forecasing a substantial (30%) increase in its costs this year; and, the CRTC has again demonstrated what I have termed budgetary myopia. The only reason fees aren’t going up again this year is that the service providers already pre-paid a big chunk last year.

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