The Federal Court of Canada has dismissed a request by former Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, to clarify the office’s mandate.
In his application, Page had also sought “judgment affirming he has the jurisdiction to seek the information” relating to the $5.2 billion in fiscal savings outlined in the 2012 federal budget. Page had in vain asked federal departments and agencies to supply him with detailed information on proposed cuts, staff reductions and the budget’s impact on social services.
In a ruling released Monday (PDF), Justice Sean Harrington said:
The Court finds that the questions posed are hypothetical and that no refusal to provide data is contained in the record before it as the Parliamentary Budget Officer has never actually requested data from any department at the instance of the Leader of the Opposition.
NDP leader Tom Mulcair had supported Page’s application. The attorney general and the Speakers of the House of Commons and Senate opposed it.
As I asserted earlier, Page’s petition sought to make Canadian democratic institutions and government agencies accountable. A recent 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. It also says “arcane rules are keeping MPs in the dark about the billions in government spending they should be scrutinizing.”
Why the court’s decision sucks? Page’s court action was part of an effort to save the soul of Canadian democracy.