‘Canadians are well served by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer’

by Aaron Wherry

It is probably worth noting that, while the government operations committee has recommended further study of whether or not to make the Parliamentary Budget Officer a full officer of Parliament, a private member’s bill that would make that change already exists: C-381, tabled last December by Peggy Nash. That bill was actually first tabled by Paul Dewar in 2010 and, while it never came up for a vote, the Conservatives said they supported passing the bill at second reading so it could be studied at committee.

Indeed, when Mr. Dewar’s bill was debated, Conservative MP Andrew Saxton actually expressed a great deal of pride in the existence and admiration for the work of the PBO.

I would also remind the members of this House that it was this government that established the office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer in the first place. It was a key element in the Federal Accountability Act, which demonstrated our commitment to accountable government. In fact, strengthening accountability and increasing transparency in our public institutions has been one of the hallmarks of this government. We promised during our campaign to improve government accountability. And when we took power, that is exactly what we did…

Essentially, the job of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is to give parliamentarians the information and independent analysis they can use to conduct a more rigorous and informed discussion of fundamental financial and economic issues. This is exactly what has happened since the office was formed in 2008. In the two years since it was established, the Parliamentary Budget Office has prepared five economic and fiscal updates and more than 20 research reports. It has also provided assessments of cost estimates of policy initiatives proposed in legislation, The Parliamentary Budget Officer himself has appeared before both House and Senate committees on eight occasions, more than most deputy ministers, let alone ministers. This officer of the Library of Parliament is clearly fulfilling an important role independent of government…

The results speak for themselves. The work of the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is proof of the government’s strong commitment to making our public institutions more accountable and more transparent.

We might disagree about some of the conclusions of the reports emanating from this office, but I doubt we would disagree about this officer’s commitment. The reports coming out of this office have taken us to task on several occasions, providing different conclusions than those of the government.

We in the government do not always agree with the conclusions of this office, but what we can agree on is that the Parliamentary Budget Officer is sparking debate. Differences of opinion and in research results are natural and are the grease that makes the wheels of democracy go round. They stimulate discussion and lead to fuller more informed consideration of the issues.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has given parliamentarians additional tools to inform our debates on how public money is being spent. It is a sign of the maturity and robustness of Canadian democracy that this organization created by our government is serving the people of Canada as it was meant to do, even if its conclusions sometimes differ from our own.

Thus, I think that we can all agree on one thing: over the past two years, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has improved how decisions are made by Parliament and has enriched Canada’s political dialogue.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has given parliamentarians additional tools to inform our debates on how public money is being spent. It is a sign of the maturity and robustness of Canadian democracy that this organization created by our government is serving the people of Canada as it was meant to do even if its conclusions sometimes differ from our own. This office has proven the strength of our parliamentary system. Canadians are well served by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

We understand the importance of accountable government to Canadians and we understand the importance of this office doing its job well. That is why we established the parliamentary budget office that is fully independent of government in its operations and funding.

See previously: What they said about the PBO




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