Programs and Budgeting

… a core concept used in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107

Concept description

Leslie Pal (reference below) describes how the modern use of term program began with the introduction of the planning-programming-budgeting system (PPBS).

See also Government Program.

Pal writes (pp. 294-295):

“The term “program” first came into formal use in the Canadian federal government’s estimates of expenditure only after 1971 (Sutherland, 1990, p. 140). Previously, a program “could be anything from the whole effort and apparatus of unemployment insurance to a regrouping of activities to realize a short-term special project” (p. 140).

“The change was due to the introduction and implementation of the planning-programming-budgeting system (PPBS), pioneered in the United States (and ironically, abandoned the same year that the Canadian federal government succeeded in applying it across all departments and in the expenditure budget process). PPBS was foreshadowed in 1969 by the Treasury Board’s release of its PPBS Guide (Government of Canada, 1969). The idea was that the system would be gradually introduced into the Canadian budgetary process, eventually encouraging all departments to state their activities in programmatic terms, that is, in terms of goals and objectives, specific costs associated with programs designed to achieve those goals, and resources devoted to each program. Ideally, this articulation would permit comparisons across all government agencies of related goals and their related programs. Moreover, the 1969 Guide presumed that once goals and associated programs and resources were identified, then the work of evaluation (principally cost-benefit) could go forward almost automatically. Again, to quote Sutherland (1990): “It was thought that both alternative ways of delivering the same program and different programs could be compared with one another in productivity terms – output per input unit. Analysts would be able to compare strategies for reaching given goals within a given program, but also to compare programs/goals with one another in terms of their expensiveness” (p. 143).

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Securing Legal Authority and Budgetary Resources (core topic) in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107.


Leslie Pal (2014), Beyond Policy Analysis – Public Issue Management in Turbulent Times, Fifth Edition, Nelson Education, Toronto. See Beyond Policy Analysis – Book Highlights.

Sutherland, S. L. (1990, Summer). The evolution of program budget ideas in Canada: Does Parliament benefit from estimates reform? Canadian Public Administration, 33, 133–164.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 11 April 2017.

Image: McKinsey & Company, Beyond budgeting: Capturing value from the government’s asset portfolio, at, accessed 11 April 2017.