Thomas Mulcair asks the PBO to go to federal court

‘This request … is too important for us to abandon it’

In a letter sent yesterday afternoon, Thomas Mulcair has formally requested that Jean-Denis Frechette, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, return to court to settle the dispute over what information the government should have to release about budget cuts. This even though Mr. Frechette would seem to prefer to explore parliamentary remedies first.

The first request by Mr. Mulcair for an analysis of the cuts outlined in the 2012 budget was made in November 2012, after the PBO’s own attempt, first initiated in April 2012, was stymied. Mr. Page then took Mr. Mulcair’s request to the federal court for clarification. And while the federal court dismissed Kevin Page’s appeal on technical grounds this past April, the ruling was greeted by Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Page as evidence that the PBO could seek recourse through the courts if it was denied information.

Mr. Page’s interim replacement, Sonia L’Heureux, then picked up the pursuit, but as of June the PBO had still not received all of the information it had requested from government departments. In July, officials at the PBO decided to begin filing access to information requests in hopes that would result in the release of the relevant information.

So on Mr. Frechette’s first day as PBO two weeks ago, he received a letter from Mr. Mulcair, the NDP leader seeking an update on the situation. When Mr. Frechette wrote back that “apparent avenues” had been “exhausted,” Mr. Mulcair wrote to remind Mr. Frechette that the matter might be taken to court.

But in a letter to Mr. Mulcair this past Monday, Mr. Frechette referred to the previous ruling to explain why he wishes to take other steps before pursuing the matter in court.

As you will be aware, Mr. Page then referred the matter to the Federal Court for a determination. In his decision, Mr. Justice Harrington said:

“[The PBO] has a number of remedies, such as complaining to the Chief Librarian, perhaps complaining to the two Speakers and the Joint Committee, and perhaps to Parliament as a whole. What I am saying is that in addition to such remedies, ultimately he would have recourse to this Court. There may or may not be a sequence to these alternative remedies, and the Court, in its discretion, may refuse to hear an application if other adequate alternative remedies have not been exhausted.”

Keeping with this advice, the Parliamentary Librarian and then interim PBO, Sonia L’Heureux, informed the Speaker of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Commons, who instructed her to send additional letters to the non-compliant departments.

The upshot of these efforts saw some successes: several additional departments provided some data. To the extent that analysis is possible on the basis of this partial data, it has been undertaken and published.

I intend to follow through with the remained of Mr. Justice Harrington’s advice when Parliament resumes by ensuring that the Speakers are informed and exploring alternative remedies.

While pursuing this matter in court always remains an option, it involves significant risks beyond those articulated by Mr. Justice Harrington above.

If the PBO were to seek judicial review of a Deputy Head’s decision not to provide the data, the Attorney General would likely argue that the matter is not justiciable. If his argument is sustained, the application would be dismissed without a decision on entitlement to the data. Even if the application were not dismissed, it is not clear that the court’s interpretation would confirm that the PBO is entitled to the data. And, even if it does, the Attorney General may appeal the decision to the Federal Court of Appeal, at the very least, on the justiciability point. And, if the PBO succeeds in the Federal Court of Appeal, the likelihood remains that the Attorney General will seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Given the foregoing, I prefer to exhaust parliamentary remedies.

Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Mulcair sent a response to the PBO. In that response, Mr. Mulcair refers Mr. Frechette to different portions of Justice Harrington’s ruling and argues that this dispute is not for the Speakers or Parliament to deal with. And he wants Mr. Frechette to take the matter back to court.

One of your legally mandated roles, as Parliamentary Budget Officer, is to provide independent analysis to help Members of Parliament. In requesting this analysis, I exercised my right under statute as an MP to this financial information. I believe you are misinterpreting my request as something that can be dealt with, and potentially quashed, by the speakers or by parliament as a whole. This is the “mischief” cited above, and Justice Harrington makes it clear that parliament cannot take away my right to this information after it was passed into law, except through passing a new law…

You now seem to believe it is acceptable to allow the Act to be ignored without doing anything to protect the rights of MPs, as laid out by Justice Harrington. I believe it is inappropriate for you to decide that this section of the Act is no longer to be in force or be observed.

I am formally requesting you take this matter back to the Federal Court to defend both your right to this information, and my right to this analysis. This request – an analysis of how Conservative budget cuts will affect Canadians – is too important for us to abandon it.




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Thomas Mulcair asks the PBO to go to federal court

  1. It’s nice to know that someone is fighting taxpayers.
    Go Tom, Go!

    • That is correct! With their hands in our wallets all the time, this taxpayer will fight the NDP, because they are the enemy!

      • You do realise that the NDP have never formed a government right, so have never put their hand in your pocket?
        This deficit is solely the responsibility of the reformatories as is our duty to pay it off before the next generation gets to pay what we blew away in gifts to the CPoC supporters.
        But I guess like most of the reform base, the level of dissonance required to think like you do about the Cons and have the hate that you do for the NDP is something you are used to.

        • Check their Provicial bretheren for your answer, then get back to me! I have no interest trying their methods nationally, thanks.

          • Exactly. “Fast” ferries that don’t work, highway projects that cost $70 million extra so that the NDP can grease its union buddies. In the immortal words of NDP legend Glenn Clark “we’re shoveling money off the back of a truck.”

          • I thought so, no evidence beyond an invalid projection and I guess you would have no problem re-electing a federal party who has been shown to be a disaster time after time after time.
            Figures
            Oh and by the way, the NDP have a better record with respect to balancing the budget provincially than the Cons, the Libs, the PQ and the Soc Creds since 1981…the StatsCan facts support this, so where you get your ideas from is a mystery to me

          • The BC NDP’s sole landmark accomplishment was to turn BC from a “have” to a “have not” province last time they were in office. The BC Liberals brought it back from have-not to have status. ’nuff said.

          • Not really, but you are a simple beast. Does that mean that I can say that ALL Conservative governments are wasters of tax payers money and love to spend money they don’t have and use the fact that this government has turned us from being in the black to being hugely in the red?

            Real economists who do real studies and rely on real data look at the real record and since 1981, the NDP have had a better budgetary balancing record at provincial and national level than any other party.

            http://www.progressive-economics.ca/2011/04/29/fiscal-record-of-canadian-political-parties/

          • “nuff said”

            Please, let’s not say say anything else.

          • Ok, I checked.

            What was that you were saying?

  2. tom, why don’t you do that trick harper does every time he tries to pander to taxpayers, ” open your mouth and make your head disappear ” .

  3. I’m all for exhausting parliamentary remedies too, but it seems pretty clear to me that the dispute is at the very heart of what a PBO (and by extension Parliament) can and can’t have access to. That matter wasn’t cleared up in the last hearing. So, it WILL come up again, even if ‘parliamentary remedies’ happen to (eventually) work in this case. We need a precedent for all future PBOs, governments and parliaments to follow. Get it over with, I say.

  4. The information the PBO is requesting on behalf of MPs is not only information that the office should receive without delay, it is information that any Canadian should be able to request and receive. Does the CPC cheer “Death to Transparency” before caucus meetings?

    • LOL. Pretty much. The Conservatives are serial deniers of accountability, transparency, and due diligence. Principals of a Tory government policy platform that Stephen Harper kept promoting all throughout his electoral campaign for the Prime Ministers office. Once he got into power, however, those promises were easily forgotten.

      • Except for everybody else. The Cons have doubled down on demands for accountability by First Nations governments, among myriad others.

        Hypocrisy, thy name is Harper.

        • Woof,woof,woof.

          • Thanks for checking in. Always glad to hear from another mutt.

        • Lol, what is doubly NOT funny about that is that the Auditor General found that Indian Affairs fails to review, or even read about one third of all reports from Indian Bands. Got that? They do not even read all that ‘accountability’! The Auditor General went on to state that Indian Affairs imposes an enormous accounting burden on the bands, and that there are not enough accountants available to create all that ‘accountability’. Of course, that could not be Indian Affairs fault now, could it? Heck no,they are perfect guardians of the public trust.

  5. What? No press conference by the PBO? Kevin Page must be twitching! :))

    • Please explain why you applaud those who block financial information and financial decisions from reaching Canadians and our MP’s whom represent us. Why would Kevin Page be twitching; it is not like he did not see this coming.

      • “What? No press conference by the PBO?”

        • …..great explanation, repeat the inane comment ad nauseam…

          • Indeed! Kevin Page had many repeat press conferences. :))

  6. “Given the foregoing, I prefer to exhaust parliamentary remedies.”

    …and besides, it’s just toooo harrrdd!

    Sounds like the CPC have found their man at last.

  7. Sounds to me the PBO sought legal advice… and that it wasn’t independent. This could easily have been written for him by a PMO flack.

  8. I bet Angry Tom signed off his letter with a smiley face.

  9. So Mulcair is simply PO’d that the PBO isn’t an arm of the official opposition. Nothing new there. The PBO’s job is to assess the accuracy of budget’s, not to pontificate on what he may or may not believe will be the results of budget cuts.

    He has all the documentation he needs to assess the accuracy of the budget. His job isn’t to assess the good/bad of the budget. We live in a democracy, not some backwoods dictatorship where one man decides what is good and what is bad.

    • ‘He has all the documentation he needs to assess the accuracy of the budget.’

      In whose opinion? Yours? With all due respect, it’s not your call. It’s not the government’s call, either. Parliamentarians (and by extension, the PBO) have pretty comprehensive rights when it comes to asking for stuff they think they need to do their jobs. It’s at the heart of parliamentary democracy.

      Ironically, the regime you propose — one where the government of the day decides how much is ‘enough’ information, ostensibly in order to prevent the opposition from doing its job — much more closely resembles a backwoods dictatorship.

  10. Also, wonderful to see that Mulcair is more than happy to leak correspondence between himself and the PBO if he doesn’t like what it has to say. But I’m sure we will hear much more about how the PMO politicized the position, but nothing about Mulcair doing the same.

    • What are you talking about? Leaks? The PBO and the MP’s are suppose to question and hold to account the government. They are suppose to speak to Canadians. This government is so far out of whack that we have people thinking things are being leaked when they are being communicated with. The only secrets are suppose to be ‘security’, everything else in a democracy is suppose to be on the table.

      • Shhh Tricky Ricky doesn’t like it when you confront him with reality, he’s a good little PMO puppy and only believes what they tell him. He’ll even roll over for a biscuit to show what a good widdle boy he is.

        • . . . as opposed to your utterly objective, impartial, non-partisan view of things.

          • It’s hard to be a partisan when you dislike all parties and the corrupt who form and support them.

          • Yes, everybody who supports a political party in this country is corrupt. You heard it from harebell, the fount of reliable, undisputed facts.

          • Who are you broadcasting to?
            You do realise nobody gives a hoot about two two anonymous folk trading barbs in a comment thread.
            Oh and the feigned horror and pearl clutching is just too adorable for words; I bet you feel a bout of the vapours coming on you drama queen

          • My, my, somebody has poopy pants today!

    • We’ll leave it to you Keith to set the record straight. We know that you’ll have that covered. You’ll keep reminding us that this whole skirmish got started because the PMO is just so up front on the issue of the opposition’s right to access information that taxpayers paid for. We know that you’ll be totally honest about it all regardless of how everyone else will try to put a partisan spin on things.

  11. Thomas is suck our own blood and he want us pay more taxes for their sakes.
    I used to be a huge supporter of NDP since then Jack Layton passed away and Thomas Mulcair took over. I started hate him so much. fucking mulcair and go to hell.

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