Is the CMHC the new PBO? -

Is the CMHC the new PBO?

Revisiting a controversy from the spring


Via the NDP, Global obtains correspondence between Diane Finley’s office and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation before the CMHC released a backgrounder about an NDP MP’s private member’s bill.

I explored this curious episode and the math involved in February. As of March, neither the CMHC, nor Diane Finley’s office were able to point to a precedent for the C-400 backgrounder. And yesterday’s Global report notes that the manager of media relations for the CMHC “could not come up with other instances when an opposition bill had its cost posted on the website.”

Regardless of how it came to exist and whether it should have come to exist and how the Conservatives used its existence, the CMHC’s backgrounder was actually kind of lacking. Of the bill, it offered a single sentence: “The proposed Bill C-400 would cost Canadians over $5.5 billion per year in rental subsidies alone.” Further investigation was required to explain that figure, which itself is probably worth debating.

Possibly we should take this episode as a reason to aspire to a world in which all bills are subject to rigorous financial analysis and costing.


Is the CMHC the new PBO?

  1. Why should the Opposition get a free ride on proposing policies? The NDP is a potential government. Why shouldn’t the CMHC prepare for a potential future policy? Why shouldn’t it be transparent and publish this information?

    I’m sure if the CMHC made an arithmetical mistake, the NDP will tell us.

    • The PBO is modeled after the non-partisan US Congressional Budget Office. I remember it costed out a budget proposal put forward by Paul Ryan during the 2012 presidential election. So it would be a great idea for the PBO to crunch the numbers on all proposals put forward by the government and the opposition parties.

      Perhaps the NDP and Liberals can make this happen if they form a government next election (Mulcair was really impressed with Kevin Page; Trudeau is making democratic reform a key plank in his 2015 platform.) The Harper Government, however, is at war with the Budget Office it created because the office often doesn’t agree with its numbers.

      But it’s the job of the non-partisan PBO to cost out proposals, not the CMHC.

      • Of course Mulcair was impressed with Page. Mulcair would be impressed with anyone who would help him skewer the government. The Budget Officers around the world now report to the OECD. That means they are not impartial.

        • The OECD has developed standards for budget transparency. They are completely impartial. Kevin Page pointed out how Harper continually failed to meet them. Budget secrecy (or standards for openness) have nothing to do with any position on the right/left economic political spectrum. Secretive government finances are simply bad policy.

          • The OECD is not impartial. They are just as determined to have their policies implemented as any of the other Bretton Woods agencies. Look at the IMF. Totally screwed up Greece and is now admitting “it made some mistakes”. The IMF is now totally in the pocket of the EU and is doing a lot of cover up rather than see the EU project go down the toilet. The OECD along with other member organizations – the UN, the World Bank, the IMF are the ones pushing green industries and sustainability. So they do have an agenda. And strangely enough, they also have the European Commission sitting alongside them.

            I suggest that the problem with the PBO was Mr. Page who tried to make himself the unofficial opposition. Career civil servants like Mr. Page are suppose to advise every government, not just the ones they like. It has become obvious that we are no longer allowed a choice in our governing policies or for that matter our government. Any party that introduces policies against which the Bretton Woods crew disapprove will be hectored and shamed by the media and public servants like Mr. Page. I don’t think that is healthy. In some circles it is called bullying and it definitely isn’t democratic.

          • The OECD ‘is an international economic organisation of 34 countries founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade. It is a forum of countries committed to democracy and the market economy, providing a platform to compare policy experiences, seek answers to common problems, identify good practices and co-ordinate domestic and international policies of its members.’


          • The PBO is NOT to advise the government. Its role is to cost the policies. If Harper just provide the info, then there would not be any issue. But he didn’t want to. Why?

          • Actually it isn’t even costing the policies. A lot of it was projecting the costs which is a different animal. Why didn’t Harper provide the info? I imagine because the PBO was now reporting Canadian information to the OECD. We saw how well the Food Rapporteur went down. Harper is not keen to let the Bretton Woods crowd run the government. I found it interesting that Kevin Page was appointed in 2008 and the initial meeting of the Network of Parliamentary Budget Officials took place in 2009 under the auspices of the OECD. After that, Harper had no time for Kevin Page. The OECD Working Party of Senior Budget Officials (SBO) was established in 1980 and this is its report on Canada, a very interesting read. Given that the IMF has said it screwed up on the Greek debt, can we really rely on these organizations to give us best practices? What is their real agenda?

      • But the CBO scores both Minority and Majority Bills, not just the Majority/government bills.

        If the PBO doesn’t score opposition proposals, then it most assuredly not acting like the non-partisan budget office.

        • It’s Harper’s fault. He created it. He didn’t give it the proper mandate or funding. It was meant to be another toothless watchdog. A symbolic fulfillment of his commitment to “open, transparent and accountable” government.

          Like I said, perhaps the NDP or Liberals (or both) can make something of this. That would be good for government and taxpayers.

          • It did get the proper mandate and funding. It was the Privy Council that decided to put the position under the Parliamentary Librarian and set the pay level not Harper. It was actually Dr. Tim O’Neill commissioned by the Liberal Martin Government that suggested the position of PBO, not Harper. As this was also a World Bank, OECD initiative, Harper could hardly say no. However what he got was a highly partisan Kevin Page who decided he was working on behalf of the OECD, not Canada. Once again, this has been another initiative to control national governments by the Bretton Woods organizations. As for these organizations being impartial, the OECD is committed to the theory of Climate Change and the development of policy from the bottom up to mitigate climate change. They’ve also got their fingers into Water Governance and had their first session in 2013. Canada did not attend. And their new blue public policy book “Recommendation of the OECD Council on Regulatory Policy and Governance – The Recommendation is the first international instrument to address regulatory policy, management and governance as a whole-of-government activity that can be addressed by sectoral ministries, regulatory and competition agencies.” So, what if the Canadian government of any flavour decides not to implement the OECD’s policy initiatives? Does that mean the PBO can use these so called unapproved “instruments” to embarrass the government on policy? Questions to ask yourself. The fact Mr. Page has now taken himself off to academia to run his unofficial PBO from there means that the Canadian government has rejected interference from the OECD. Kevin Page is now acting like every other academic that is in pay to the UN system of governance and he will have to rely on op-eds in the media to get his point across.

        • What a waste of resources to score an opposition proposal when it will never become law in a majority government scenario.
          And we call Harper a great steward of our finances?

    • Yeah let’s really do that. Why not have the RCMP or the military offer critiques on why the NDP ( or the LPC) is unfit to govern. Why not politicize the whole shebang while you’re at it!

    • It is not for the CHMC, a political-neutral crown agency, to put out research to attack the Opposition. The Harper Conservatives is politicizing the public service to the point that when the next government takes over, a wholesale clean-out of the public service will be necessary to bring it back to the traditional role.

      • The traditional role of being pro-Liberal?

  2. Sounds like politicking to me. Harper couldn’t get the PBO to publish the absurd numbers. So he got his whiz kids in his Ministry of Truth to script some agitprop and ship it out through his CMHC. Harper believes the Budget Office he created is a Liberal organization because they won’t follow his scripts. (He says it’s “partisan.”)

    (This comment is brought to you by Canada’s Economic Action Plan: self-promoting propaganda creates jobs!)

  3. The NDP has really fallen down the Ottawa bubble rabbit hole. They don’t realize that no swing voter cats about this inside baseball nonsense. They are the only ones outraged.

  4. How is a private member’s bill an NDP policy anyway?
    Are these private members’ bill on abortion CPC policy too?

  5. Another instance where it is illustrated that no part of government is exempt being used for Conservative political spin. Those deep Conservative pockets fund a machine that mines every vein of the bureaucracy for political gold.