Being hated means getting it right

Paul Wells on Conservatives turning a new (Kevin) Page

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

In two months Kevin Page’s term as parliamentary budget officer will end. He’s the fellow appointed under the Federal Accountability Act—the first piece of legislation the Harper government passed—to provide independent analysis of federal spending. He keeps disagreeing with the Harper government’s explanations of its spending. That’s actually his job. “It would be an independent body that would answer to Parliament and would not be part of the government,” Monte Solberg said in 2004, in the Conservatives’ opposition days, about the office Page wound up occupying. “It would not be a situation where the government could manipulate the figures to its own ends.”

Page has resisted the government’s attempts to manipulate the figures to its own ends. He said jet fighters would cost more than the government said they would. He said year-end deficits would last longer than Jim Flaherty said they would. He said the government had created a “structural deficit,” one that could be eliminated only through cuts or higher taxes. Flaherty disagreed for months, called Page every name in the book, until his department acknowledged Page had been right all along.

Flaherty has had just about enough of this crap. On the Global TV show West Block the other day, Tom Clark asked the finance minister whether Page’s office has been “a net benefit.” “Not yet,” Flaherty said.

“I think the idea . . . was that the parliamentary budget officer would kind of work like the congressional budget officer in the United States to report to the elected people in the House of Commons about how the government was doing in its budgeting. Sort of being a sounding board, a testing board.” Page, he said, has “kind of gone off that course . . . He’s been kind of wandering off and going in other places.”

This is fantasy. It’s hard to know where to start talking sense in the face of Flaherty’s claptrap. First, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports publicly to Americans, just as Page does to Canadians, on a vast range of issues, because budgeting is vast. In so doing, the CBO often disagrees with the President and with the claims of both parties’ congressional delegations. On Tuesday, both the Prime Minister and Treasury Board President Tony Clement said, repeatedly, that they’d like to see a “non-partisan” budget officer. They should reread their own scripts from 2004, when they understood that the best definition of non-partisan was a guy who would drive the government batty.

Second, in measuring “net benefit,” it’s handy to measure cost and then results. Page’s office has 17 people on the payroll, including the interns. The Congressional Budget Office has more than 80 in its budget-analysis division alone, and it has seven other divisions. Flaherty’s department has thousands, the Department of National Defence thousands more. Somehow Page and his crew managed to find a structural deficit and a jet-fighter cost overrun two years faster than all of them needed. He begins to look like a bargain.

Stephen Harper, Clement and Flaherty have all said they are “committed” to the institution of the parliamentary budget office and that there will be a successor in its top post once Page leaves. As for that person’s mandate, “I would like, personally, to see a more defined mandate,” Flaherty said.

It’s hard not to worry that that’s a genteel word meaning a straitjacket. There’s a major structural flaw in the budget office as currently designed: Page is subordinate to the librarian of Parliament and serves at the government’s pleasure rather than being a fully independent officer of Parliament like the auditor general. But as far as the topics he is given, under law, to study, there is no problem. His current mandate is to “provide independent analysis about the state of the nation’s finances, the estimates of the government and trends in the national economy.” In addition to that independent and self-initiated work, he is to answer questions from parliamentary committees or “by a member of either House,” whether Commons or Senate, about “the financial cost of any proposal.”

That’s a broad mandate. It’s supposed to be a broad mandate. It’s a check on power—a hedge, if we may speak frankly, against the possibility of tyranny. Conservatives in other countries are fond of that sort of thing. And while it sometimes pleases the government to protest that Page does the Opposition’s bidding, unfortunately, the plain text of his mandate says he is required to do their bidding, and that he would do the Conservatives’ too if they would simply bid him now and then.

When critics ask why Harper insists on being secretive or sometimes a bit of a cranky guy, Conservatives answer that he won three elections and a majority by being that way. True. But fair’s fair. Having an ornery, independent budget officer did not stop Harper, either. In 2005 Harper famously said he could “take a punch.” What Page provides isn’t even a punch. And when one day Conservatives are in opposition, they will want a serious man in the job Page has done so well. It’s time for the government to show some toughness and appoint a credible successor to Page. If they hate the next person too, they’ll know they’ve done it right. If they don’t, we’ll know they haven’t.

For more Paul Wells, visit his blog at macleans.ca/inklesswells




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Being hated means getting it right

  1. “And when one day Conservatives are in opposition,” — that’s the problem, Paul — they are fixated to a paranoid extent on making sure that doesn’t happen. Whatever bending of the truth is necessary — whatever the cost to any individual or institution, it’s worth it to prevent that from happening.

  2. the truth shall set you free mr page and as a canadian taxpayer,you will be missed ! if your reading this article mr page,i want tyou to know,you have served your country very well and with distinction.you deserve any accolades that come your wayin the future.i am very sorry to see you had to be pillard by the same people who hired you to get to the truth.again thank you for your service,it was quit an education.

    • While I have no hesitation in endorsing the need for a PBO it needs to be said that the current officer has not always carried out his office with the optimal decorum and attitude one might expect. Too often he has imputed the (bad) motives of the government where his opinion is not only uncalled for and unnecessary but likely wrong – or at least arguably so. Kevin Page has needlessly politicized the office and too often demonstrated a porcelain personality when a thicker skin would have served him so much better. This is particuliarly so as we now know with the benefit of hindsight that the government forecasts on critical files were often more accurate than his. This should have fostered some humility, instead what we saw all too often was pugnacity. We can only hope that his replacement demonstrates an more appropriate disposition for the position.

      • Do you have any examples to back up those accusations?

      • Dunno what news you’ve been reading, sure not even close to the truth! LOL.. “government forecasts on critical files were often more accurate ” – are you speaking of the F35′s by any chance?! LOL… How about hoping that in the future, the faux govt that claims it is in power by a majority of voters put away their pugnacious and bullying attitudes, their grand sense of entitlement, their sick rhetoric and political spin, and dare to try to run this country the way it should be run … with truth to power, not truth to $$$=big oil!

      • On the major file, he was more accurate than the government, as this article reminds us. As to his “pugnicity”: if your every report were slapped down, if the mere fact of an analysis that differs from the government caused them to smear you nationally, would you not become the least big pugnacious? He had two choices: either stand up for his math, as he did, or hand in his notice quietly and let the bigmouths win. I say more credit to him!

  3. Quite frankly, now that I know Kevin Page is the chair of the Network of Parliamentary Budget Officials at the OECD, just how non-partisan is he? If it means the Budget Officer has to report to the OECD, follow the dictums of the OECD and carry out the OECD’s policies, that is hardly being neutral. It means Canadian government budgets are being vetted by an international supra national entity and I’m not at all happy with that. http://www.oecd.org/about/membersandpartners/publicaffairs/relationswithparliamentarians.htm

    • It doesn’t mean any of those things. It means that Canada is a member country of the OECD and has representation on many of its committees. The fact that he is chair presumably that both Canada and Page are well respected.

      • Now look what you’ve done… you’ve ruined his day. Time to junk that little conspiracy theory. Back to why is he attending liberal conventions, most likely.

        • Huh … wait until Ezra reveals all about Mr. Page being
          a secret contributor to the Council of Canadians … let
          loose the hogs of war …

          • I bet he takes in macleans too…why, that almost makes him a cummunist.

          • I must have hit a nerve. Whenever I get dumped on, I know I’m too close too the truth.

          • You’re reading too much into a funny.

    • Apparently you don’t understand at all what membership in an association of one’s peers is about.

      • Of course I understand what a membership is. These so called memberships though are taking a dark turn. Where is our independence when a group of budget officers gets together and decides what global policy is going to be. Why even have a country? Say Page decides to follow an OECD budget policy and the government doesn’t like the policy? We then have all the press denouncing Harper for giving Page a hard time. Is he really independent?

        • The questions you raise about membership in this organization suggest that you clearly don’t know what such membership involves. You’re making up a lot of fantastic fiction here, alleging transnational conspiracy, among other things.

          Show us where the OECD constitution states its members are accountable to it for the performance of their parliamentary roles.

          • Fine. How would you feel if that last meeting of the Parliamentary Budget Officials included “80 delegates from 29 member country
            parliaments and independent fiscal institutions, as well as the EU, IMF,
            World Bank, universities, and OECD Delegations.” Now tell me again about memberships? Canada’s figures were punted about to this so-called august group. Not one of those organizations were elected by the people of Canada.

          • What in hell is your point here? You’re actually questioning Page’s membership in an international organization of peers? That is so utterly irrelevant that it’s baffling.

            Not only do you seem to want an Officer of Parliament to be mute and compliant to the whims of the current government, you’d like him to be isolated, too?

          • The next PBO will held under house arrest with no way to communicate to the outside world.

          • You do know that Flaherty met with other finance ministers and as I understand it our ‘figures were punted about’.

        • Gawd, you’d think he joined the CPC or something…

  4. If the Cons sincerely believe that the current PBO has done a disservice to the nation, then they have finally conflated their own welfare with that of the country.

    “L’état, c’est moi!”

    • Finally? I thought that was their entire belief system from the get-go…

  5. “And when one day Conservatives are in opposition, they will want a serious man in the job Page has done so well.”

    You sure about that? My thought is that they’d be just as happy if a partisan hack was in the job, so long as he was partisan for them alone. That would probably serve them well both while in power and while not.

    Which means it’s probably what we’re going to get.

    • @Thwim – and the only thing better than that would be that they are stripped of all legitimacy as a party as soon as they are found guilty of election fraud.

  6. The only decent accountability reform that Harper has come up with…and even then he couldn’t get it properly situated within the Parliamentary hierarchy…essentially it was a mistake, in that he can’t control it.
    This guy will probably go down as some kind of Conservative reformer of liberal sloth and complacency…but i really can’t imagine why!

    • Curious to know who you think the next one should be – can you give us a few off the top of your head?

  7. I agree with everything in this article.

    Hopefully the Conservatives don’t gut this office that they introduced because it was inconvenient. Their supporters wanted it, their opposition has come to appreciate it, and it will be more useful when we Conservatives are in opposition again than it hurts us now.

  8. 0% of Americans know the name of the Head of the CBO. The CBO advises Congressional members on budget matters and publishes their findings. The PBO was designed to assist Canadian parliamentarians to become watchdogs of the public purse- their principal role. (rather than Trudeau’s “nobodies”) Make them more effective at committees and in the house. Instead Page is a publicity hound announcing the results of studies at press conferences and the talk show circuit instead of working with parliamentarians so that they can represent the public more effectively. The research of his staff is valuable and should be helping our $150K MPs become what they should be- skilled financial watchdogs.

    Follow the pattern: Opposition MPs ask for a study because the press is asking a lot of questions (“we’ll get the bastards”) Study completed. Page holds a press conference and questions the government’s policy or numbers. Goes on Soloman, Martin, VanDeusen, CTVNewsnet, CBCNewschannel, -the Opposition MPs yell and scream “Yeah- what he said- it’s awful.” (“I still can’t read a budget document to save my life –but it’s incredibly awful.”)

    Process should be: MPs ask for a study because they are concerned about the financial implications of a budget item or policy. PBO completes the study and briefs the appropriate committee and puts the document online. Opposition MPs consider the findings and use them to prepare amendments (and to yell at the government for incompetence) having reviewed and understood the study. Government MPs consider the findings and either act to support amendments or defend the budget as is.

    Page has become a politician and we don’t need any more unelected politicians than we already have.

    • Right, and he has to go to court to get access cuz he just loves that limelight too.

      ” And while it sometimes pleases the government to protest that Page does
      the Opposition’s bidding, unfortunately, the plain text of his mandate
      says he is required to do their bidding, and that he would do the
      Conservatives’ too if they would simply bid him now and then.”

      What part of this didn’t you understand? And i would be curious to know which came first – govt harassment or page holding press conferences and doing the political show rounds?

      Just a minor niggle. But it bothers me that so many people misuse this quote:

      “When they are 50 yards from Parliament Hill, they are no longer honourable members, they are just nobodies.” Pierre Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister

      It is perfectly obvious he was referencing the vaunted sense of self importance that so many ordinary mps aquire once they get their butts in the HoCs. He didn’t call all mps nobodies per se.

    • Kevin Page’s position was brought in with the spirit of accountability. You can say he should be doing his job another way, but you can’t say he not holding the government accountable (to the best one can with a majority government that liked a tight hold on all dissent.) It’s actually saddening how partisan some folks like you have become. Who would not want government accountability. Page has pointed out bad financial planning, and lying about costs. How is that a bad thing?

      I don’t support one party in particular, what I support is an honest government. A government that tries to better the nation, not just control it. If one wants a government that is secretive and not held to any standard, they can move to Ecuador, or Belarus.

      • You can say he’s “doing it his way” but his way is not statutory and has become badly political and unacceptably partisan. It is not surprising that opposition supporters wish to crow about his approach.

        In no case in the statute is his mandate to “hold the government to account”. It is to provide advice to and research for Parliament. That’s it, that’s all. No Evan Solomon interviews about what the government is or is not doing.

        The notion of making Parliament accountable for its role in scrutinizing finances is not the same as “holding the government to account” which frankly is the role of the auditor general.

        I’m afraid you’ll have to elect another government that will give the PBO the mandate that you think he should have.

        • I agree with you that for some the positions of AG and PBO have become blurred.

          Also, when Page asked for numbers on ‘not to be spent’ numbers, his request was way out of line. It is up to the government to decide what the monies are to be spent on. We don’t need an unelected body telling us where we should or should not spend tax-dollars money.

          • The AG’s core role is to assure after the fact that money has been spent legally (i.e., that it has been authorized by Parliament), and that such expenditures have been properly documented (i.e., there is a transparent paper trail) as determined by established accounting procedures and auditing methods.

            The PBO’s core role is to provide independent estimates of the cost of government’s programs and priorities so that Parliament can make informed decisions on proposed budget allocations before voting on them.

            These roles are clearly separate and distinct. In no way, are they “blurred”.

          • Of course I know the difference between what the PBO does and what the AG does. You may know the difference too, but not everyone does. Therefore the line has been blurred by some.

          • It doesn’t matter if the lines have been blurred “by some” (by whom, BTW?), as long as the two offices each understand their own terms of reference and stay within them.

            I would suggest they do, and have.

          • “blurring” seems to be the specialty of the CPC when things aren’t going their way…

          • It is difficult to stay on topic, isn’t it! But when there is a will, there is a way. First thing to do is for you to take off the anti-CPC glasses. A more realistic world will open up. Then staying on topic is not that difficult.

          • “muddying the waters” is the term Jenni Byrne prefers.

          • A better term, I agree – but I was using Francien’s own terminology in response.

          • “The PBO’s core role is to provide independent estimates of the cost of
            government’s programs and priorities so that Parliament can make
            informed decisions on proposed budget allocations before voting on them.”

            Then why the need for press conferences? Why not report solely during committee hearings or directly to MP’s when requested? Why the need for press conferences by Page? He doesn’t have a mandate to report to the media……………………..

          • Why not press conferences? The AG has them, too, when timely. The PBO’s office reports to Parliament. Transparency should be the “default mode” for his work, except when counter-indicated by matters such as national security or personal privacy.

          • That is the problem. Page has stepped out of bounds with the press conferences. His mandate is to report to Parliament.

          • Pretty damned hard to report when you can’t get information needed from the govt depts, don’t you think???

          • He went to the press only AFTER the government obfuscated, stonewalled, and attempted to neuter him.

          • That may be the case in some of the instances when Page did press conferences but it is not the case in all of them.

          • He is reporting to Parliament, not the Harper government.

          • True, he does, however, have a mandate to ‘hold the govt. accountable’ and that descriptive can be finished with ‘to the public at large’. Obviously Mr Page, unlike the cpc pm and mp’s, seems to have great personal integrity, and is an honest and moral person; ergo, when he cannot/could not get responses from the depts, perhaps he felt it only right to alert the public to this govts. malfeasance!

          • I agree that the roles are not blurred. However the role of “holding the government accountable” as described by McGuilty is that solely of the AG and is definitely not in the mandate of the PBO.

            I very much appreciate your restatement of the mandate: “provide independent estimates of the cost of government’s programs and
            priorities so that Parliament can make informed decisions on proposed
            budget allocations before voting on them.” Nothing about Power & Politics, nothing about Power Play, nothing about the National Press Gallery. Page made that part up.

          • Is the PBO initiating these interactions with media or merely responding to requests for access by the media? Do you actually know?

            If the latter, he would be open to charges of “secrecy” if he refused such requests. And then, he’d be accused of colluding with the already-secretive Conservative government.

            I don’t recall such high dudgeon when the AG holds conferences to discuss its findings and respond to media requests.

          • It doesn’t matter who initiates the media requests. The PBO should be advising media: “we publish our analysis online so you can evaluate it. The Committee that requested the analysis is in the best position to comment on it.” Click, hang-up, dialtone. This is exactly what the CBO does. Tell me you knew who Douglas W. Elmendorf is. I don’t see him on Meet the Press, Washington Week, Face the Nation. Our Kevin just can’t get enough.

          • If you believe PW’s assessment elsewhere on this thread, such a response would be atypical for those officers of Parliament, Crown agencies and other arm’s length government services in Ottawa that haven’t yet been co-opted or intimidated by the Harper government.

            Why is it this government and its disciples have an almost reflexive need to muzzle, suppress, neuter, emasculate (insert own verb here) those public service professionals who don’t genuflect in their presence or meekly submit to their partisan agenda?

          • Mark Carney? You want to talk about being co-opted. I think there is more Liberal skullduggery than Conservative in that.

          • Here we go with the typical irrelevant Con mudslinging.

            Carney’s association with the Liberal Party was a rumour and an allegation. Produce evidence, and demonstrate how such alleged partisanship ever influenced his conduct as a public servant…or stop rumour-mongering.

          • OK, so you’ve posted a link to an article claiming that the Libs tried to draft a senior Crown employee into their ranks and that, according to that individual, he’d “been previously approached by people from across the political spectrum about entering politics”. Nothing illegal or even particularly unusual there. No evidence he sought or encouraged such overtures or that this activity ever influenced his performance as a senior Crown employee.

            So tell me again what any of this has to do with Kevin Page.

            You almost had me chasing squirrels there.

          • Whoever created the ‘CBO never appears in the media’ talking point should be sacked. See Paul’s links.

          • One might argue you don’t see him on as much because he’s not faced with a government actively trying to stonewall him from the very thing he’s supposed to be doing.. and which they created his office for.

            They reap what they sow.

          • How can you evaluate proposed budget deficit reductions without knowing where the cuts are?

        • Guess that’s why he feels he has to go to court for docs then? Considering
          the whole point of putting him there was this:

          “It would be an independent body that would answer to Parliament and
          would not be part of the government,” Monte Solberg said in 2004, in the
          Conservatives’ opposition days, about the office Page wound up
          occupying. “It would not be a situation where the government could
          manipulate the figures to its own ends.”

          I’d say it’s you who doesn’t understand his mandate.

          • Page has overstepped his bounds by requesting department budgets. He gets the overview. He is suppose to be a statistician not an accountant. He needs to know the department spent $30,000 on administration. He does not need to know they bought 25 boxes of pencils and that is what he is requesting and that is why departments have refused to cooperate.

          • If only it WAS the cost of 25 boxes of anything the govt was denying him.

          • 25 boxes of large jars of black ink for redacting FOI requests…

          • You can’t get o the core of the matter with an overview; overviews are deliberately slanted to tell the story the presenter wants told – which is not necessarily the truth.

        • Is the AG allowed to appear in the media? Governor of the Bank of Canada? Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?

          • Yes, yes, and yes. They all do frequently, the Chief Justice a little less so than the others. You could look it up. I believe, for instance, all three have done Maclean’s Q&As.

          • Of course they are and do – it’s Just Saying’ that needs to look it up.

        • @46186680d75d4a2e93851d83c9e97187:disqus – “which frankly is the role of the auditor general.” Doesn’t matter now, didn’t matter when Sheila Fraser wanted to release the audited documents PRIOR to the 2011 election and … guess who wouldn’t allow it??? Bingo, give the man a prize!! The faux pm himself specifically FORBADE Ms. Fraser from releasing those documents……… next?

    • You wouldn’t have a problem with him if he produced reports that praise the government’s performance.

      • He shouldn’t be praising or criticizing anyone. He should be researching and analyzing data for parliamentarians. He was not elected by anyone so he shouldn’t be advocating any policy.

    • Agreed

  9. http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/op-ed/Conservatives+should+remember+needed+Parliamentary+Budget+Officer/7873418/story.html

    But also according to Ian Lee: ” However, at the same time, I argued he made TWO fundamental errors: 1.
    releasing the Afghan study during an election which was wrong as no
    public servant should advertently or inadvertently influence the outcome
    of an election by releasing any information during an election period
    and 2. he should not have publicly repeatedly speculated on the motives
    of the govt. The role of the PBO is to release its studies and let the numbers and analysis speak for itself.”

    …………and perhaps Wells would like to address why Page felt the need, repeatedly, to call press conferences rather than share his findings with MP’s directly……..

    …………and perhaps Wells would like to tell us where Page pegs down the F35 numbers at this time……….since it seems to me that even Page is not longer sticking to his numbers of the past…….which means that his numbers are not written in stone either………

    • Ian Lee is practically on the CPC payroll, far as i can tell.

      • Source of reference? Otherwise your comment is just another empty posting.

        • far as i can tell…it was me.

          • Oh, now it all makes sense: your opinions are to be taken as fact. At least it tells us how you consider objectivity. No wonder you believe people such as Page must be considered objective. You and Page both are taking opinions as to be facts. Now it all makes so much sense.

          • You’re a laugh a minute, you know that Francien?

      • So you think Page should have released the Afghan study during an election? And do you think also that Page is right about speculating on the motive of the government?

        • What Paul said.

          • Paul has further commented in regards to the Afghan mission, but he has not further commented on speculating on the motive of the government.

            Would you care to comment in regards to the PBO and speculating on the motive of the government?

          • No idea. I didn’t follow it that closely. I imagine it was what it always is with the Harper govt – pandering to domestic politics and pretending it’s got something to do with being principled. IOWs how to hold on to power at all costs.

          • Why did you not tell me that from the get-go? Here I am in between the cooking of a pot of chicken soup and the baking of a whole wheat/rye bread (both from scratch) trying to have a serious enough conversation with you and now you tell me you are just willing to pander your usual ware.

            Something for me to remember for the next go around. No thanks!

            (As I’ve said previously: I’ve never believed you were a troll but a debater you ain’t either.)

          • I suspect you make better soup and bread than you debate.

          • Well, your suspicion would be wrong:

            cooking up a good pot of chicken soup and

            baking a delicious loaf of bread and
            holding my own within a debate

            have in common that:
            practice does make perfect.

            I’ve practiced my fair share.

          • One can never get enough home made bread or chicken soup ( I make both) and you can never get enough practice debating. You sound like you enjoy practicing.

    • I’m going to agree with part of Francien’s argument. Releasing the Afghanistan costing during an election writ period was a big mistake. Page told himself that delaying the report when it was ready would amount to a political decision, so the thing to do was to release it as soon as he had it. But every officer of Parliament puts his or her office in a near-complete lockdown during election campaigns, precisely because anything they say could be taken to influence the outcome. Page wants to be an officer of Parliament but he didn’t play like one that time. I’d be surprised if he would ever repeat the error.

      On whether it’s appropriate for him to hold news conferences, I’m afraid I have a hard time taking seriously the argument that he shouldn’t. The language commissioner has news conferences. The commissioner of the environment has news conferences. The AG, the privacy commissioner, the competition commissioner, the head of the National Round Table on the Environment, when we had one, the information commissioner, the director of the National Gallery, the head of the RCMP. John Manley had one when he reported to the PM on the Afghanistan war. Then he gave a bunch of TV interviews, As everyone I’ve listed here does. People have news conferences. It’s an incredibly routine event. The notion that it’s “grandstanding” to explain one’s work is… not impressive.

      • I appreciate your reply Paul. And it is my hope too that Mr.Page learns from his mistakes. And that counts for government members as well, of course, because on that side likewise the trench of disagreement has been deepened and in order to prevent such deepening of trenches, lessons will have to learned from mistakes.

        As to your point of view in regards to press conferences: you are right – many other commissioners or directors give press conferences. And in the end, such press conferences are intended to provide an insight of findings. Those finding will then become part and parcel of the debates to be had by parliamentarians.

        And so when Mr.Page releases his findings, the media’s questions and Page’s comments should be in regards to his findings only. There is no further need for him to assume (or for anyone else to assume) that his numbers are the only trustworthy numbers. Because here is the thing: when a government’s finance minister comes up with budgetary numbers, those numbers cannot easily be taken in isolation. A finance minister (and government actions as a whole) must take all aspects of governing into consideration. A budget is a combination of things, not a singled out in-dept look of one thing in particular.

        For instance, let us imagine that the PBO numbers would point out that to pay unemployment benefits for longer periods of time would be considered beneficial for the country’s economic outlook because the PBO has figured the numbers as such. Yet, a government may take the opposite view into consideration, namely that prolonging unemployment benefits would reduce a country’s economic stability because less people would be propelled to find work. When more people work (even work at reduced pay), the country as a whole would benefit. In other words: the government must look through a different lens.

        Both approaches and both numbers may be correct when stating them. However, the government is the elected body, not the PBO. Governments make the ultimate decision as to what direction to take. Governments are ultimately accountable to the electorate. The PBO is accountable to parliament (via the Library).

        And so, when press conferences are to be held, they should always be regarded in the context of such duality of approaches being possible. And as long as press conferences are to held in such regards, I have absolutely no problem with press conferences of any kind.

        • 5 minutes ago he was too political…now he isn’t and that’s just fine by you. Would you like to pick a side and maybe stay on it for a bit?

          • What are you talking about? As long as a PBO insists that only his numbers are correct, he is politically engaged.

            Numbers can be made to work in various forms. 2+1+1=4 but so does 3+1 or 1+1+1+1 Never disputed that fact. It’s when claiming that only 3+1=4 would be the only possibility that a falsehood opens up, to be taken under scrutiny.

            The PBO is able to find numbers which work according to its opinions and so can the government find numbers to work according to its opinions.

            The difference between the PBO and the government is that the government is an elected body. The PBO is not.

          • Lol the only thing that really made any sense – to me anyway – was the last sentence or two :)

          • When you no longer can defend your position on issues, you start taking things in jest as an alternative. A complete cop-out. I don’t know why you feel the need to stoop to that level.

          • You go back and read that post and tell me it makes any sense then.

          • It makes sense.

            Now tell me what does not make sense to you.

          • Both Page’s numbers and Flaherty’s are projections. I haven’t met a projection that has been right yet.

        • This comment doesn’t mean anything. If Page has done something wrong, spell it out, what’s with the hypothetical policy discussion? 99% of the complaints about Page amount to “he outed a Minister I support as being a liar, and this makes me feel uncomfortable.” The Government has failed spectacularly to show that Page has done anything wrong, and you aren’t doing any better. If hisartisanship is as blatant as you desperately want everyone to believe, it should be pretty obvious where he stepped out of bounds.

          • I don’t belong to the 99% you are referring to.

            Actually it is you who cannot defend the remarks I have made in my previous post. Rather than trying to defend your point of view, you simply accuse others of making things up.

            I don’t want desperately for anyone to believe anything they don’t want to. It just would be nice to have an adult conversation about this topic. I apologize for thinking you were wishing for the same thing……..having an adult conversation that is………

          • i disagree and others have pointed out the difference. Page is suppose to publish his numbers not comment on them and not hold press conferences. It’s up to the Opposition to make these points. Also, Page is not privy to any decisions the government makes in regard to future plans or confidential knowledge. Page can do his projections all he wants but if the government has information that he isn’t privy to, his projections are meaningless.

      • “the head of the National Round Table on the Environment, when we had one”

        OK, I gotta ask: do you mean the political body, or an environment? ;-)

      • The operative word there is “commissioner”. Page is not a commissioner.

        • Neither are about half of the people I named in that comment, but nice try.

  10. One never sees the head of the CBO on TV or in the media. They let their analyses and reports speak for themselves. That is why the office is respected and well-regarded.

    Kevin Page is a media whore, and the media have ignored all the times he has been wrong in his analyses. He has essentially made the PBO office a partisan office, rather than an independent office, like the CBO.

      • Peter Orzag is not from at the CBO. He was Obama’s budget director.

        C-span and Bloomberg more validates my point. No NBC, ABC, CBS, or Fox or PBS even. Public campaigning about their reports is rare. And I dare you to find an instance where they use the media to challenge a political figure. The CBO is just the numbers and facts, and the extent of their commentary in the media is just their own numbers and facts. They don’t, for example criticize or comment on the White House Office of Management and Budgets numbers, the way Page comments on Flaherty’s numbers. They leave the any discrepancies for others to comment on.

        The CBO sticks to their own reports and numbers.

        The CBO is not remotely the media whore Kevin Page is. Congress would shut down the CBO if it behaved like Canada’s PBO did under Page.

        There is no remote comparison to the objectivity of the CBO compared to the partisan advocacy of Page’s PBO.

        • Dumb of me on the Orszag video. He came from CBO to OMB, and was indeed at the latter post when he did Charlie Rose.

      • Cherry picking

        • How the hell can it be cherry picking on a binary proof? Learn what a fallacy is before you think you can use it.

    • What a partisan pantload

    • CBO analyses and reports frequently turn out to be wrong, which is easy to understand because the world is big and it changes. Here’s the CBO changing a bunch of its forecasts:

      http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/14/us-usa-budget-deficit-idUSBRE82C19Q20120314

      If you google CBO wrong you get a lot, much of it from partisans, much of it true anyway.

      http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2012/12/29/this-prediction-from-the-cbo-shows-how-wrong-they-were-about-the-u-s-economic-future/

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/paulroderickgregory/2012/02/02/are-cbo-estimates-really-the-gold-standard-of-accuracy/

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/post/the-cbo-knows-its-basic-forecasts-are-wrong/2011/08/25/gIQAjZiSfQ_blog.html

      The point of independent budget analysis, as I have written since I first proposed such an office well before the 2006 election, is not to be faultless, it’s to provoke debate. Wide variance between the analyst’s numbers and the government’s provokes a debate. It also gets the analyst called a whore in some circles, but what in life is perfect.

      • But the PBO officer should not participate in the debate. The CBO does not participate in the debate. They just produce the numbers and data.

        Page involves himself in the partisan political debate, which destroys the credibility of the PBO.

        It is not his role to take up advocacy for any discrepancy his numbers have with numbers produced by others. That is for the media and the politicians, not for the PBO.

        • Maybe he “gets involved” because it is the only way to get the government to open their books to him the way they are supposed to. The government tries to stonewall him or say he’s wrong, and so he defends himself publicly.

          • I don’t think it is appropriate for a PBO to request information on ‘none expenditure’ but that’s what he requested.

          • Did he make the request of his own volition or because that information was requested by the opposition? In which case are you saying the opposition was not entitled to ask where the cuts were?

          • Why don’t you tell us what happened………………………

          • Scroll down a bit; PW summed it up succinctly, replying to wallhousewart’s reply to me.

          • The Opposition is not suppose to demand that he overstep his mandate and he did that by requesting individual department budgets. As I said before, he is suppose to get the broad brush strokes of budgetary information – not the pencils.

          • His mandate, which you are permitted to read, orders him to “provide independent analysis of…the estimates of the government.” Here are the 2012 Main Estimates. They run to 519 pages.

            http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/est-pre/20112012/me-bpd/docs/me-bpd-eng.pdf

            He is further mandated, when requested “by a member of either House or by a committee,” to “estimate the financial cost of any proposal that relates to a matter over which Parliament has jurisdiction.”

            Any. Proposal. You could look it up.

          • Thank you Paul!

          • And right there we have a fundamental disagreement. He is not supposed to be a pitch man for the government – which is all he would be if he were allowed only the broad-stroke whitewashed version.

          • If the PBO were to follow the Cons definition of his role there really would be little point in having the office.

  11. He was so partisan that the Opposition just loved him

    • That, basically, sets the role of the PBO. It would be a dereliction of the Office to pander/temper or otherwise bend to political influence of any sort and, by the very nature of a majority government, the fact Page’s office riled the government suggests it was on track (and would do the same no matter who was in power). The PBO is a fact checker extraordinaire. When a government of the day chooses to question and second guess the PBO, it’s a sure sign they are uncomfortable. A toothless, dependent PBO would be a total waste of money.

      • Actually I read it another way. As soon as Page realized the Opposition was taking advantage of his office, he should have pulled back. Not necessarily in opposing the government but in allowing the Opposition to use him as ammunition. Sheila Fraser never allowed the Opposition to use her as a tool.

        • Works both ways, no? I don’t think Page let himself or the Office be used as a tool. However, it provided fodder that countered the official line of the government. In that situation, the Opposition parties are bound to take up the gauntlet – but is that reason for holding back on information that questions the government line? I don’t think an eunuch would be value for money in that position.

          • The problem is, Page was the one that went to the press, not the Opposition. That is where things headed south. Page should have delivered his report and left the room. I think there is one occasion where he actually went to the press first without delivering to Parliament.

  12. If the Harper govt plans to effectively neuter the office, I’d just as soon they eliminated it.

  13. Ah hello, Harper is a criminal and a religious nutjob.

  14. There are times when the PBO has strayed beyond its mandate, like when Page decided to let us know the government could pay for pension programs, as is, no problem. It was not his job to comment on the government’s decision to spend more or less on pensions, or whether taxes should be lower or higher, or whether pensions should be lower or higher. It was his job to analyze the government’s estimates of pension spending (either before or after reforms).

    It’s his job to analyze whether the government’s spending numbers are accurate. It’s not his job to opine on what the government should spend money on. There’s a distinction between the two that Page has failed to grasp.

    If the mandate could be clarified so that the PBO could stick to the mandate, then the office might be useful. At the moment it’s too much like an additional political party.

  15. The simple fact is that the US CBO can do the job of budget analysis with the full respect of both Republicans and Democrats, and the media, because it sticks to its own work.

    Kevin Page has abysmally failed to do what the CBO has done for decades. He has involved himself in political debates intentionally, something that the CBO ruthlessly avoids, and as a result, he has discredited the PBO as a sort of independent and fair analysis.

    • Could you be more specific – what political debates has he entered into?

  16. “In so doing, the CBO often disagrees with the President and with the claims of both parties’ congressional delegations.”

    Is not the fact that the CBO often disagrees with BOTH parties’ congressional delegations evidence that it is different from the PBO? When has an opposition party ever disagreed with the PBO?

    • False equivalence. It’s like saying throwing criminals in jail is unfair if we don’t throw innocent people in as well.

      • In that case, is it not equally a false equivalence for Mr. Wells to use the CBO in his article as a point of comparison?

        • No. Because, and here’s the point you people don’t seem to be able to understand: The PBO hasn’t existed during any government but a CPC one.

          Whining that the opposition has always agreed with the PBO means absolutely nothing, because, not only is it his express mandate to provide checks on the government’s numbers, but when there’s been contention between the two, Page has always turned out to be the one with numbers that better match reality.

          If they agreed with the PBO and he turned out to be wrong and the government right, you’d have a point, but he hasn’t yet. It’s really the old “post-hoc ergo propter-hoc” argument.. “Every dog I’ve seen today is black, so all dogs are black”.. it’s a crap argument, made by people who simply don’t want to admit that the CPC gov’t is inept, Page calls them on it, and the opposition agrees with him.

          • “You people”?

          • Yes. Given that you’ve taken the same tired line of argument that every other CPC Uber-Alles type of person has pushed forward when it comes to Kevin Page, “You people” is quite appropriate, as whether you generally act as part of that group or not, in this particular instance, your stance is theirs.

            Thus.. you people.

    • Totally different situation – Congress has spending authority – our opposition parties don’t. Again, whoever is writing these talking points should be replaced.

      • If it’s a totally different situation, then doesn’t it follow that there was little reason to include the CBO as a point of comparison in the article?

  17. Mr Harper and Mr Flaherty please listen and listen good!!
    I support you and the Harper government from the get go. I’ve voted for you in all your election runs and am proud to do so because I believe you are running a good government and the economy is the envy of most nations.
    Saying that; Kevin Page is exactly what you as a government want and need. Yes he calls a spade a spade and yes you don’t always like what he says and requests but the whole point of his position is to keep you honest and Canadians want to be able to trust government which led to the liberals downfall!!
    Are you still listening? Good; the smart and honest and right thing to do here is to reappoint Kevin Page as Parliamentary Budget Officer if he will take it.
    I’ve been around and the right way to run a democracy is to have ‘checks and balances’ like Kevin Page–keep this in mind and good luck.

  18. Well the c.r.a.p. sure as hell didn’t win 3 elections & a majority by being HONEST, FORTHRIGHT, LOYAL, and TRANSPARENT!! Hell, we don’t even know he/they didn’t CHEAT their way into power again this time, like in 2006; it was illegal for him to prorogue in ’08 and he did it anyway!! They were full of S**t then, lied for 6 yrs, and are just as full of it today!!
    They don’t want any person in that position that is not an ass-kissing, oil-drinkin, RWNJ that will suck up to big corps, right after they finish licking the faux pm’s boots!! These faux cpc mp’s should be in jail, awaiting trial for their crimes against Canada, Canadians, and Parliament!! Why are we allowing an illegal government to make any decisions for Canadians whatsoever until this investigation is over? Federal fraud should be a very serious offence. All bills should be void until we determine if they are guilty or not.
    This pussy-footing around regarding ‘immunity’; ‘should there be a committee’, or an ‘investigation’ – should be addressed IMMEDIATELY by a prosecutor!! And Governor General David Johnston should be embarrassed and ashamed enough to quietly resign, after having allowed this notorious faux govt to continue to sit! Now, let’s get this GD show on the road and put these thieves where they belong; get an HONEST coalition going, hire or extend Page’s contract or accept his recommendation of a replacement!! It’s called #IdleNoMore!! and we aren’t stopping!

    • Well stated and so true…I am an Ally of Idle No More…one of millions…

    • Agree completely!! I am with you!!! :)

  19. Yes, it would be sad but not surprising to see another Heil Harper appointee so that our PM can continue to tighten his stranglehold over how my tax dollars are spent. And yes, our PM finds it impossible to work with anyone who ever disagrees with his agenda. I wonder though, must the PBO be male? I quote from the article: And when one day Conservatives are in opposition, they will want a serious man in the job Page has done so well.

    • Don’t know that it would matter to him/them ….. ie: Shiela Fraser, AG – muzzled just prior to the 2011 election ….. he believes in equal opportunity – he’ll muzzle or constrict anyone!

  20. 76% of Canadians did NOT vote for harper in the last election (and that’s even with the help of the robocall scandal). conservatives always say they won a healthy majority and got 39% of the vote. That actually means 39% of the 60% of Canadians that actually voted. 40% of eligible voters in Canada didn’t vote at all. Of the 60% that voted, conservatives got 39% of the 60%. Including ALL eligible voters in Canada, conservatives got in power with a little less than 24% of eligible voters voting for them.

  21. The man deserves a medal, for service to the nation!

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