The PBO and your right to know

Paul McLeod tries to wrap his head around the dispute between the Harper government and the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

Taxpayer-funded lawyers are about to take on taxpayer-funded lawyers to keep tax spending secret from taxpayers. If this already sounds silly, it just gets worse. Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page has asked for details of budget cuts. He’s given today as a final deadline before he calls in the lawyers. The government has refused to comply and is readying its own legal guns.

By the end of the day, Page will have to pinch himself and decide whether to launch a court battle over something as inane and obvious as Parliament’s right to know how tax dollars are being spent. Unfortunately, it looks like he has no choice.

The departments of Public Works and Public Safety and CSIS contacted the PBO today and the PBO has granted each of them extensions past today’s deadline for information: see here, here and here.




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The PBO and your right to know

  1. Whoever thought up this idea that we should have an independent budget watchdog to ensure that the government is being up front and truthful with taxpayers? Stephen Harper and the Tories really ought to call out whoever created this position and appointed Kevin Page to it.

    What?

    • You have now formally exceeded your sarcasm allotment for this post. Regrettably i’m going to have to expel you from Hogworts. You can turn in your owl and wand to macleans for safekeeping. The night bus should be along presently.

  2. What we need in this country is a political party willing to run on a platform of openness, transparency, and accountability. A party that will call on Canadians to demand better.

    WHAT?!?!

    Why does everyone keep looking at me like that???

    • You want to watch yourself mate. Mr H has set the law dogs on people for less. That’s called impersonating an ethical accountable government. Everywhere but in Ottawa.

  3. Speaking of lawyers, is anyone else eagerly awaiting the announcement that the Jean Chretien Liberal government is finally going to sue the Stephen Harper Conservative government for copyright infringement?

    • I voted you up, but when i seriously think about your question i begin to wonder if you aren’t slandering Mr Chretien, just a bit? He was, on the whole a charming rogue, and on occasion [ too many occasion nearer the end] sleazy and scummy; Mr H i leave up to others to define adequately by comparison.

      • It is ironic indeed that the Harper government is arguably even worse than the Chretien government was on this stuff, but I think that the fact remains, they learned it from him (and he learned it from Mulroney… it’s the circle of life…).

        That the students have exceeded the masters is an impressive feat though. Chretien being secretive and unaccountable was arguably par for the course, but to see the guys who insisted that the course needed to be redesigned doing it now just boggles the mind.

        I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, pre-2006 Stephen Harper would LOATHE post-2006 Stephen Harper. Then again, if the two ever met the point would be moot, as I’m pretty sure that’s the sort of thing that rips a hole in the fabric of space and time.

        • True…and it took JC more than 40 years of hard work to get there.
          Hmmm, a hole in the space time continuum eh. And i thought he was supposed to just be maturing. If the universe does ever collapse back on itself that might be the needed spark to set off a big bang again! If it happens enough times even he might one day tire of the irreconcilable paradox that is SH…don’t count on it though.

    • The Chretien government most certainly did not withhold public budget documents. Harper was found in Contempt of Parliament for this practice in 2011, which was an historic ruling.

      Fact is the Chretien-Martin government had nothing to hide: they were producing $14B surpluses… The reason Harper is keeping public documents top secret: he is cooking the books.

  4. I never really agreed with him on many files, but I always thought that Preston Manning was a decent fellow and a patriotic Canadian.

    Every time I read a story like this about the Tories, I worry that somewhere Mr. Manning is having a stroke.

    • Apparently he has no complaints. He is busy working away at promoting the Conservative party through his “Manning Center for Democracy.” In fact, it was at Manning Center “campaign school” workshops where the idea for using voter-suppressing robocalls was cooked up (as early as Jan 2010…)

    • I imagine his streak of honesty would have lasted about 17 minutes longer than harper’s (who lost it five minutes into his first official duty when he welcomed Emerson into cabinet).

      Remember, Manning never actually had to be accountable for anything.

      • Exactly. His perceived decency was a branding exercise, just like Harper’s.

        Manning has had 6 years to run out of patience with Harper, but he still carries Harper’s water in every public appearance.

  5. Right. Left. Rich. Poor. Seriously, is there anyone besides the government that thinks basic accountability is unreasonable? WTF?

    • Rick Omen – I believe that`s his position.

  6. This stuff just writes itself, doesn’t it?

    I’m here all night folks. Please tip your waiters generously!

    • Just don`t order the beef.

  7. The two sides should find a middle ground: the government should hand over applicable information and Page should be very careful of how he deals with that information. Page should not be a spokesperson for anything other than doing his work and report to the Parliamentary library.

    • Page does not make up the rules as he goes along (unlike Harper…) He is going by internationally accepting guidelines, like those outlined by the OECD… The Harper Government has been withholding public budget documents since 2010 because they have something to hide — the actual budget numbers.

      Flaherty similarly cooked the books while finance minister of the Conservative government in ON in 2003.

      • But having learned from the mistakes of Ontario, the Conservatives now include ritual stoppage of information flow to avoid detection.

    • The hell?
      This is public money we’re talking about.

      *I* should be able to ask for these types of numbers and get them. Never mind someone who was specifically appointed to do exactly that.

      The use of them thereafter is completely irrelevant to the issue.

      • of course, like I said, Page should get the applicable information. But Page should not overstep his bounderies once he has the information. I do not want an unelected official telling me what should and should not be cut out of the budget. Page’s job is to verify the numbers as proclaimed by the government.

        • Except you said they should find a middle ground. There is no middle ground to be found.

          Page should get the information. Full stop. How that information is used is a completely separate issue.. not a “middle ground” issue where they need to come to some agreement. He gets the info. Period.

          • yes there is a middle ground. Page has a reputation for being too opinionated. A well respected Sheila Fraser he is not.

          • But Sheila Fraser was allowed access to the books, the very thing the Conservatives are blocking.
            Perhaps Page would seem more “objective” if he wasn’t consistently denied access to the transparency he was mandated to ensure.
            Need I remind you that Harper was going to usher in a new era of transparency and accountability. Where the hell is it?

          • The main reason he’s not as respected by the Tories as Sheila Frasier was is because he’s a watchdog during a TORY administration.

            PLENTY of people thought that Sheila Frasier overstepped her bounds on NUMEROUS occasions, the only difference being that back then the tended to be Liberals. You don’t need to look any further than the F35 file to see the partisanship here. On that file, the PBO AND the Auditor General said basically the SAME THING, and the Tories attacked both of them.

    • I regret that I have but one thumb to down your post with.

    • @francienverhoeven:disqus : Somebody is on the Conservative Party’s email list.

  8. Kevin Page was the only watchdog appointed by Harper that had any teeth and the Harper Government has been waging war against him since day one. Long gone are the days when Canadians could trust the federal government on the budget numbers.

    Back when Flaherty was finance minister in ON, he said a $5.6B structural deficit was a balanced budget. Considering they raised spending by $100B/yr (worse record than Bob Rae according to Andrew Coyne) and cut taxes by $44B/yr, the structural defict’s got to be around $30B this time — unless they have a hidden orchard of money trees…

    • And we have 3 more years of his stewardship.

  9. Has anyone ever conducted a serious survey of just how much this Harper govt has cost us in terms of needless and frivolous subs to the bar?

  10. Why don’t the cowards just fire Page? Oh right, because they are cowards who would rather hide and crawl and cower like egg-sucking dogs.

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