PBO won't issue analysis on Ottawa's finances, blames secrecy - Macleans.ca

PBO won’t issue analysis on Ottawa’s finances, blames secrecy


OTTAWA – Canada’s budget watchdog will not issue a mid-year report on the Harper government’s finances, citing lack of co-operation from the vast majority of departments.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page said Tuesday that he has received responses to requests about budget cutbacks from 91 per cent of government departments.

However, he says most have supplied inadequate information.

Only one-quarter of departments, representing three per cent of the $5.2 billion in budgeted cutbacks, have provided data on personnel losses or the impact on services to Canadians, he said.

“The lack of disclosure will prevent the PBO from providing parliamentarians with independent analysis on the state of the nation’s finances and the estimates of the government,” the budget officer said in a release Tuesday.

Page has asked for a legal opinion on whether he can sue the government for the information he is requesting.

But on Monday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty reiterated his position that he does not believe Page is entitled to the information he is seeking.

“My concern is his mandate is to look at government spending,” Flaherty told CBC’s Power and Politics program.

“What’s he’s proposing to do now is look at government non-spending. I don’t see that in his mandate. I wish he would stick to his knitting, quite frankly, he has enough to do.”

Flaherty is expected to issue the government’s economic update on the fiscal year so far later this month.

Page gave no date when he will offer his analysis, saying it will come “as further data is provided.”

Based on information he has received so far, Page said the government will achieve most of its cost savings from cutbacks to international, immigration, defence and social programs and general government services.

Reductions in internal operations, or overhead, only represent about 15 per cent of the overall package, he said.

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PBO won’t issue analysis on Ottawa’s finances, blames secrecy

  1. “My concern is his mandate is to look at government spending,”

    So does Mr. Flaherty believe that Mr. Page is there to tout how much money the gov’t supposedly saved on a balance sheet while ignoring the costs accrued by said cuts? Is his job to present a one-sided, blind argument that supports any and all cuts to programs as good, no matter the ill effects on the workings of the country?

    So in Jim’s mind, removing Canadian services has NO impact on Canada’s economy beyond it’s budgeted spending number on a balance sheet?

    So if we stop spending money on roads, let’s say, that is ALWAYS a good thing to Mr. Flaherty? “Hey we spent less money, right?” So in essence, if crumbling roads and infrastructure are hurting transportation efficiency…that represents NO COST to the Canadian economy, in his brilliant mind? All that we should worry about is the red number representing debits on his balance sheet, not the fact that the cost is offset several times over by having a functioning social infrastructure? No: “RED NUMBER BAD, BLACK NUMBER GOOD” is what we get from Harper and Co.

    Yes, people…these are the “economic gurus” that we have in charge of the till.

    • I like that Page is one of the few economists out there actually factoring austerity into GDP growth. (There are many economic disasters caused by reckless austerity measures, like Greece which had -6% GDP growth in 2011 — a depression-style contraction.) He originally forecast 1.9% for this year and 1.6% for next.

      Carney on the other hand originally forecast 2.4% and 2.4%. He has so far revised his forecast downwards twice this year. (Now 2.1% and 2.3%.)

      Looks like Page has been right on track all along…

      Flaherty is trying to blame everything on the American fiscal cliff (which hasn’t hit yet.) But in reality private-sector job growth has stalled in Canada, while it is picking up in the US…

  2. Let’s be fair. When Harper promised he’d create a Parliamentary Budget Office to ensure government budget accountability, he didn’t promise he’d cooperate. Promises made, promises kept…