Make no mistake about it: Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) is on a mission to save the soul of Canadian democracy.
Kevin Page is proceeding with his earlier threat to sue the Harper Government for its refusal to comply with his repeated requests for financial information relating to the 2012 federal budget, which Parliament passed earlier this year. Page is taking several federal departments and agencies to court.
For months, the PBO has been begging the departments and agencies to supply him with detailed information on the $5.2 billion cuts the budget proposed. Twenty out of 82 departments have still not complied with his request. Frankly, transparency and accountability aren’t terms applicable to the Harper Government.
Which is strange. Ironic too.
The Conservatives created the Parliamentary Budget Office - by amending the Parliament of Canada Act (1985) – through the Federal Accountability Act of 2006. Myabe I’m forgetting the fact that back then, in 2006, the Conservatives were seeking to kick the Liberals from power. The Conservatives appointed Page, an economist, in 2008.
If I were the PBO, I’d have said: sabotage!
The office’s key objective is to “strengthen accountability and increase transparency and oversight in government operations.” Page’s mandate as PBO “is to provide independent analysis to Parliament on the state of the nation’s finances, the government’s estimates and trends in the Canadian economy; and upon request from a committee or parliamentarian, to estimate the financial cost of any proposal for matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction.” The Parliament of Canada Act entitles Page to the information he’s requesting.
The Harper Government – through the federal departments and agencies – are obliged to provide the PBO with the financial info requested. Without the PBO having to launch lawsuits!
Page’s unprecedented step “speaks to the level of secrecy around this government,” said NDP Finance critic Peggy Nash (Parkdale-High Park).
The latest report by Parliament’s Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates revealed that even MPs are in the dark about the billions in Conservative government spending. That “arcane rules are keeping MPs in the dark about the billions in government spending they should be scrutinizing.”
The Globe and Mail‘s take on the report:
Members of Parliament receive conflicting, outdated information about how billions of tax dollars are being spent each year, and get little opportunity to review fiscal plans. Just this spring, not a single House of Commons committee was able to report on its examination of some proposed spending because the information arrived too late — and the session clock ran out.
One of the report’s 16 recommendations is:
That the government develop a searchable online database that contains information on departmental spending by type of expense and by program.
All the 16 recommendations are HERE.
Stephen Maher of PostMedia News’ nailed it when he chrsitened Page a “rebel with a calculator”:
In a town where senior civil servants get ahead by currying favour with higher ups, Page has been a rebel with a calculator, an accountant with a defiant streak, the rightful heir to the mantle of former auditor-general Sheila Fraser, speaking truth to power, as he is mandated to do by law and as he is inclined to do by nature.