What the next PBO needs to do - Macleans.ca

What the next PBO needs to do

A to-do list for Kevin Page’s successor


Stephen Tapp, a former economist with the office of the parliamentary budget officer, considers the concerns of Kevin Page and Philip Cross. Writing for Policy Options earlier this year, Tapp penned an open letter to the next PBO that included a to-do list.

The latter piece is particularly interesting and a valuable contribution to the discussion and it should be read in its entirety, but I’ll except here the two changes he recommends near the end.

Two further changes would help solidify the PBO’s viability going forward.

First, penalties should be established in legislation for noncompliance with reasonable requests for information from the PBO to government departments. This could include monetary fines and/or requiring a public explanation, from the minister and deputy minister, for the refusal to comply with a request.

Second, the appointment process demonstrates the need for more openness and transparency when appointing the leaders of our important economic institutions, especially those who are expected to operate independently of the government (including the governor of the Bank of Canada). There should be much broader parliamentary and outside expert involvement and far less secrecy in such appointments. In the case of the parliamentary budget officer, there is an undeniable conflict of interest when the prime minister effectively appoints the person who is responsible for commenting on and critiquing budgets, estimates and costings.

Independent MP Bruce Hyer has tabled a bill that would address that the first point.


What the next PBO needs to do

  1. Eliminate the PBO entirely and let the Auditor General do his job.

    • The first cries of the public? Or a PMO plant before the PBO is quietly dismantled?

      An IMF report shows the government has been more accurate with estimates since the PBO. Does one infer they’ve also got an incentive to use money more wisely? I believe that is the point of a budget monitor after all.

      Logic would suggest the PBO is valuable and a serious pain in the ass for a government who wants secrecy.

      • As the PBO and the Harper administration were created about the same time in 2006, I hardly think the PBO is the reason the numbers have been more accurate.

    • Except that the Auditor General isn’t being blocked or interfered with at all by the PBO. In fact, the two positions seem complimentary and to go well with each other.

      I think the PBO needs to be elevated to Agent of Parliament status, much like the Auditor General.

    • They do two completely different things. The PBO examines how much policy will cost taxpayers in the future. The AG examines how well taxpayer money was already spent.

      The Budget Office is a good investment that can save taxpayers money. We need to expand its role and ensure budget transparency.

    • The roles of the PBO and the AG are entirely different and should remain separate.

  2. Both these suggestions sound really good to me.

  3. What the next PBO needs to do is his f*(#$ing job, and stop promoting him/herself in the media. Page seems to have taken it upon himself that he was to be Canada’s un-elected budget maker. Sorry pal, that’s not how democracy works.

    The moment Page started dictating to the government what should and shouldn’t be a priority, he lost every ounce of credibility he might have once had.