'I was your parliamentary budget officer' - Macleans.ca

‘I was your parliamentary budget officer’

Kevin Page explains himself


Kevin Page explains himself.

Our institutions of accountability are in trouble. Parliament does not get the information and analysis it needs to hold the executive (the prime minister and cabinet) to account. This is true on departmental spending plans. One year after the 2012 federal budget, which launched a significant fiscal austerity exercise, parliamentarians still do not have departmental plans to show how restraint will be implemented and service levels managed. Notwithstanding, they are asked to vote on departmental authorities to spend your money. Parliamentarians almost never see financial-decision support analysis prepared by public servants. This was true on the tough-on-crime legislation, new military procurement as well as changes to the Canada Health Transfer and to Old Age Security.

We need to care. In a well-known book, Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, the historical case is made that nations fail when political leaders consolidate power at the expense of citizens. Nations succeed, the authors argue, when political power is dispersed; when governments are held to account by legislatures; and when economic opportunities are widely available. Canada’s Parliament is losing its capacity to hold the government to account. There are negative implications for prosperity and democracy. I am sorry if I sound brash, but we need to wake up. There is a lot at stake.

See previously: Exit interview with Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page


‘I was your parliamentary budget officer’

  1. “when governments are held to account by legislatures“

    Exactly. And it is my understanding that the creation of the PBO was to do some number crunching and report to the Parliamentary Library, so that MP`s from all parties, including the MP`s sitting on the government side but outside of the executive, would thereby have access to those numbers, to inform themselves, ask questions of the PBO when needed, and to make a more informed decision upon voting time.

    I have no problem with that. And the current government had implemented such a change from the past.

    • And the current government had implemented such a change from the past.

      Would you say that this endeavor has been very successful, or modestly successful or a failure or…..?

      If less than completely successful, what would be the top three areas for improvement?

      • I think this endeavor has been tainted on both sides. I think that if Page had done the job as initiated by the current government, that the government would have been urged by all parliamentarians to provide the numbers in a timely fashion, since it would have been the MP`s who would have been held responsible for making the judgement calls instead of Kevin Page doing the rounds arguing with the government. The government could not win this fight for public support when the one side is doing politics but such fact is blatantly glossed over; Page`s uncalled-for political play, to be sure!

        I feel no need to give you three areas for improvement. If you read my previous post (the one you responded to) and this one just given to you, it would be abundantly clear what my main area of improvement would be. (I do not sit here to be a commentor to the hard of reading).

        • You say that this endeavor has been tainted on both sides, yet somehow (if I follow your assertions correctly) only Page needs to change his ways – I don’t understand that logic.

          Wrt the fight for public support, perhaps Page won that fight because his case was more credible.

          And are you 100% convinced that the government did not play politics as some of the disagreements unfolded?