A word from Kevin Page - Macleans.ca

A word from Kevin Page

The former PBO on the Federal Court ruling


Via email, Kevin Page’s reaction to the Federal Court ruling and the interim PBO’s request.

I am grateful to the federal court and the Honourable Sean Harrington for the judgement.

While we did not get all the clarity we sought, I think the PBO got a good foundation for moving forward.

It confirms that should the PBO be refused information from the government, he or she has recourse to the courts. The grounds for dismissal in this case were merely that, as the PBO had not technically requested the information (a procedural issue ; “no live controversy” from a legal perspective) subsequent to the request for analysis from the Leader of the Official Opposition Mr Mulcair (although multiple rounds of requests were made prior) the claim was deemed premature for determination by the courts. This decision, therefore, constitutes a very powerful tool in the hands of Canada’s next PBO.

In my view, the federal court strongly upheld the PBO legislative mandate. I quote from the Honourable Sean Harrington’s Judgement,

” … the cascading or tumble-down structure of s. 79.2 is such that Parliament not only intended that the Parliamentary Budget Officer be answerable to it and to its committees, but also to every backbencher irrespective of political stripe. In my view, the purpose of the statute is to shield any given member of either House of Parliament from the will of the majority… If the majority wants to abolish the position of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, or define his or her mandate somewhat differently, so be it! However, it must do so by legislation. Having made that law by statute, it must unmake it by statute. In the meantime, Parliament has no right to ignore its own legislation.”

I strongly support the PBO position today to move forward with an information request to deputy ministers.

A “live controversy” does exists from a legislative and fiscal perspective (if not yet from a legal basis according to the judgement). Parliament and Canadians do not have access to spending plans on a departmental and agency basis that are consistent with federal budgets (2012 and 2013). Silly debates are taking place between the PBO and TBS about what is happening to spending on internal services without a baseline forward estimate for Members of Parliament to hold the government to account. The federal government has set out a significant task of freezing direct program spending for five years to achieve medium term fiscal balance. These plans should be made public. Members of Parliament should scrutinize these plans with the benefit of analysis from PBO.

With the benefit of the judgement of the federal court, Members of Parliament and the Speakers of the House and Senate may now wish to support efforts to obtain the spending plans. Everyone will benefit. The government will be able to build on its efforts to promote a more open government. Its medium term fiscal objective will be strengthened with additional scrutiny. Parliament will be able to do its job of holding the executive to account. The Speaker of the House will be comforted by the fact that the power of the purse has been restored to the House of Commons. Public servants will be able to showcase their spending plans (I suspect many are quite good). Canadians will know that Parliament is working on their behalf.

Thank you Mr Harrington.


A word from Kevin Page

  1. Someone within parliament still needs to put forth a request. Mulciar has not put forth the question and hence the courts could not intervene.

    So time will tell if Mulcair or anyone else will put forth the request, or indeed we will be standing still at the same point.

    I’m not sure if Kevin Page has understood the meaning of not being able to answer questions in a vacuum.

    But we will see how the interim PBO will proceed, as I understand a statement has come out from the interim PBO. And also a response by the government has been issued to the PBO statement.

    Kevin Page is no longer serving as PBO so I hope this will be his last statement in this regard, other than speaking as a Canadian voter, like the rest of us!

    • But if a proper request for information were put forward, the informational vacuum would cease to exist.

      If that isn’t clear to you (from yesterday it looks like it isn’t), just keep reading that sentence till it makes sense. If it’s an honest misunderstanding on your part i apologize for my curt tone, but it’s been a very trying week for reasonable people following conservative commentary.

      • So what would be the proper request to ask for money not to be spent???

        (ps: No one is forcing you to follow anyone. You have it choice. It’s your time. Reasonable people us it wisely….. :) ….and please don’t forget to answer my question – for it would be your chance to show your stuff!.)

      • So, is Kevin Page trying to tell us that he had a request from Mulcair all along, but that Page forgot to pass the request onto the government departments? Or did Page think he did not need to do the requesting officially, and is that what he went to court over?

        How much did that cost the Canadian taxpayer, either the oversight of Page not having asked the request officially to the government departments, or the quest to demand information without official requests being made?

        Believe me, I have read what Page has written in his email, and I know what the interim PBO has stated and what the government’s response has been.

      • No reply anymore? What, you are no longer reasonable?

        • It’s there. In that one sentence. I won’t indulge you by pretending it isn’t.

    • The request by Mulcair had already been made. See para 2 of the court’s decision. It was Mr. Page who had been pressed by his bosses, apparently (but not certainly) at the government’s behest, not to respond. He instead chose to ask the Federal Court by way of reference.

      Because Page has not been denied the information (because Page had not requested it) the issue is not yet justiciable and the court cannot rule.

      Hope that helps.

      • Thank you for that reply.

        But what request has been made by Mulcair? To have the information about the none-budget numbers? I have moved past the court decision, as I have understood that part.

        But the question remains: is the PBO to ask for none-budget numbers, meaning: can none-numbers (cuts) ever be provided?

  2. Well it sure is nice to see that Wherry and Page are continuing their cute little pen-pal relationship, even though Page is now completely irrelevant.

  3. Oh wow, what a class act Mr Page is. Maybe the new one can outsource to Mr Page.